Darkest places on the moon are permanent shadows, but now we can see into them

(ORDO NEWS) — It is a common misconception that the Moon has a “dark” side. Like grilled chicken, the moon’s rotation ensures a pleasant and even sunbathing around its equator.

But there are pockets where the rays never reach: deep craters and depressions at high latitudes, in the polar regions of the Moon, with high walls protecting the bottom of the crater from harsh solar radiation.

Keeping temperatures below -163 degrees Celsius (-260 degrees Fahrenheit), scientists believe there could be all sorts of interesting things in these mysterious lunar holes.

Well, basically one thing: water ice, in chunks up to several meters thick.

We probably won’t know for sure until at least 2024, the year NASA plans to send astronauts to our little lunar buddy to test it out… but in the meantime, scientists have found a way to light up these shadowy areas for a quick look.

The results could help decide which of the 13 possible landing regions is most likely to yield the best science, as well as helping to understand the persistent cold dark spots that represent one of the Moon’s most mysterious borders.

First bad news: According to glaciologist Valentin Bikel of ETH Zurich in Switzerland, who led the research, it looks like we will have to dig through the ice.

“There is no evidence of pure surface ice in the shaded areas, meaning that any ice must be mixed with the lunar soil or lying below the surface,” Bickel says.

It may seem that peering into permanently shadowed regions on the Moon is an impossible task; however, while direct sunlight may not reach the crater floor, the holes are not completely devoid of light.

Some light – not much, but still – bounces off nearby mountains and crater walls into shadowed areas, and is captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which is currently orbiting the Moon.

This data, unfortunately, is too noisy to make out the details of what is in the craters.

Entering a machine learning algorithm called Hyper-efficient nOise Removal U-net Software (HORUS). It can de-noise the LRO data and reveal what’s lurking in the shadows on the moon.

The team deployed HORUS to image 44 permanently shadowed areas over 40 meters (130 feet) in diameter. in the exploration zone of Artemis.

The researchers said they were able to see meter-scale detail in these images information that will help plan lunar exploration.

“It is now possible to design visible routes into permanently shaded areas, greatly reducing the risks for Artemis astronauts. and explorer robots,” explains geologist David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute and NASA.

This is especially valuable, as the Artemis suit will only provide a limited amount of time in the cold of the shadowed craters; modern designs allow just two hours. Being able to effectively display which objects to visit and which to avoid will increase those hours.

Robotic missions will also benefit from data.

Later this year, NASA will send a robotic lander to the moon’s south pole, near one of the potential Artemis landing sites. The results of the analysis by the LRO data team will also have implications for this mission.

“We found a crater approximately 50 meters wide and other surface features in the shaded area that could change where the Intuitive Machines bunker will land later this year,” Bickel says.

If you’re going to land on the moon, it’s best to know ahead of time what you’re getting into.

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