The shady bottoms of lunar pits remain at a comfortable 17°C no matter the time of day or night, according to recent observations by the Lunar Reconnaissance orbiter (LRO)

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The finding that pits on the Moon have relatively stable, temperate conditions potentially earmarks them as sites for future lunar bases.

As NASA's Artemis programme prepares to return human beings to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo missions, information like this could be of vital use to future explorers.

On the Moon, the 60m-wide Marius Hills pit floor stays a comfy 17°C day and night. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
On the Moon, the 60m-wide Marius Hills pit floor stays a comfy 17°C day and night. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

And while the temperature in these pits remains stable and relatively comfortable, conversely most of the lunar surface swings wildly between two extremes.

During the 15 days of lunar sunshine, surface temperatures on the Moon can reach as high as 127°C, only to drop to –173°C during the lunar night.

"Lunar pits are a fascinating feature on the lunar surface," says LRO project scientist Noah Petro from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

"Knowing that they create a stable thermal environment helps us paint a picture of these unique lunar features and the prospect of one day exploring them."

The pits in question were first discovered in 2009 by the Japanese Kaguya orbiter and were soon touted as potential sites for a human base, offering protection from cosmic radiation and micrometeorites.

Now knowing that they also set the thermostat to room temperature, they seem an even better candidate.

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www.lroc.asu.edu

Authors

Elizabeth Pearson
Ezzy PearsonScience journalist

Ezzy Pearson is the Features Editor of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Her first book about the history of robotic planetary landers is out now from The History Press.

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