Although similar in size to Earth, the planet-next-door Venus is typically perceived as a hellish inferno of caustic clouds, crushing pressures and kiln-like temperatures. And while those are indeed all very much the case, Venus has recently been found to have a cooler side too… although it’s 125 km (77 miles) up in its atmosphere.
When you look up at the moon, you’re looking at what is now believed to be the coldest place in the solar system, according to recent data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Craters at the moon’s south pole stay in constant shadow, their rims blocking sunlight from reaching their interiors. In these areas of permanent darkness the LRO has recorded temperatures of -400º F, which is only 30 degrees above absolute zero.
Pluto was previously believed to be the coldest place in our solar system but this is even chillier than temperatures so far measured on that distant world.
Perhaps the New Horizons orbiter will counter this lunar challenge when it flies past Pluto in 2015, but until then our moon holds the new running deep freeze record.
Image from the Apollo 17 mission. Credit NASA.