There are certain areas of the moon that never get sunlight, there are regions that are in ‘permanent shadow’. These dark regions include the sunken floors of impact craters that remain shadowed and extremely cold. Scientists believe that exploring these sunless sites could be fruitful – due to the possibility of ice formation. However, the darkness in these areas makes exploration a challenging process. An international team of scientists has now developed a method to peer into the darkest parts of the lunar surface ahead of NASA’s upcoming Artemis mission.
Permanently dark regions are temperatures below 100 degrees Kelvin (-173 degrees Celsius) and near absolute zero, where water and other volatiles can freeze in the soil. Snow build-up in the area may provide clues Consolidation According to researchers at ETH Zurich the amount of water in the Earth-Moon system. Additionally, ice can also provide sources that can be used for astronauts, rocket propellants, or radiation shielding.
To explore these areas, the team used a physics-based deep learning-driven post-processing tool to create high-signal and high-resolution Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) narrow-angle camera images of 44 shaded regions in the Artemis Exploration Zone. The instrument is efficient at capturing photons emitted from crater walls and adjacent mountains into dark areas. This method allows scientists to reveal potential exploration areas in the images.
“Visible trajectories can now be designed into permanently shadowed regions, greatly reducing the risk to Artemis astronauts and robotic explorers,” Explained Lead Scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) Dr. David A. Cring.
Astronauts on NASA’s Artemis mission will be able to spend only 2 hours in the shadow region wearing spacesuits designed for them, according to researchers. The new images will help mission planners guide astronauts to boulders in dark regions and where soil can be analyzed for any ice distribution.
The team applied their technique to images collected by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera used to document the Artemis Exploration Zone. The enhanced images were analyzed to determine that water ice was not visible in the sheets covering the dark lunar regions.
“There is no evidence of pure surface ice in the shaded area, which means that any ice must have mixed with the lunar soil,” said Dr Valentin Bickel, a former graduate student intern at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) and now a postdoctoral researcher. at ETH Zurich. Dr. Bickel is the lead author of the study Published In Geophysical Research Letters.
Dr Bickel added that his findings could also have implications for NASA’s mission to deliver the PRIME-1 payload. He said he found a pit and some other features that could change the location of “the Intuitive Machines hopper touches down later this year.”