Looking Into a Lunar Cave
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter recently got a glimpse into a previously-imaged pit in a region called Marius Hills. An oblique view combined with angled sunlight gave a peek into what seems to be a lunar cave, or at least some sort of overhang at the bottom of the pit! Previous images were completely dark, illuminating only parts of the pit rim but here we can see there’s clearly some sort of shadowed area between the pit wall and the floor, indicating a further recess. How far in does it go? Is it just a few meters or does it extend into an underground tunnel? Only future exploration can tell!
This pit is about 213 feet (65 meters) across and 110 feet (34 meters) deep.
Pits and caves may become the best locations for lunar bases, should we ever get to that point. The natural shielding from solar and cosmic radiation provided by the rock above, as well as the constant (albeit cold!) temperatures would make them convenient outposts for human explorers, given that they are geologically stable (moonquake alert!) and can be easily accessed. Not to mention what could be learned about lunar geology from inside the Moon itself!
Imagine entering a preserved lava tube, unchanged for more than 3 billion years; such an opportunity is a geologist’s paradise…
– Mark Robinson, LROC team, September 14 2010
Funny to think that as humanity progresses in technology and spacefaring ability, the closer we may get to a return to cave dwelling!
Read more about this image on the LRO imaging site here.
Image: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
ADDED: For a “view” into another cave on the Moon, check out this post on Lunar Networks. Joel Raupe took two images of a pit on Mare Tranquilatis, taken at different times under different lighting angles, and combined them to get a better look into the pit. Very cool!