Lava Tubes Found Near The Moon's North Pole Might Have Skylights Leading To Hidden Water
New research on the lunar lava tubes found near the moonâs north pole suggests that the pits, or holes, found in the area might be entrances to underground tunnels that in turn lead to a hidden source of water.
A team of scientists from the SETI Institute and the Mars Institute wrote in a study published this week that the small pits are most likely lava tube skylights that lead into ancient underground tunnels that were filled with lava at earlier points in the moonâs history. CNET wrote that the tunnels could potentially play a key role as scientists determine if itâs possible to tap into supplies of usable water while on the moon.
Lava tubes, according to Newsweek, are empty tunnels created during the period in the moonâs early history when it still had a number of active volcanoes. These are similar to the tubes found on Ear th and occasionally created during volcanic eruptions when the outer edges of lava flow cool down and solidify, thereby trapping streams of lava that are still flowing.
As seen in parts of the moonâs surface, the tubes often come in the form of sinuous riles, which are winding depressions that are believed to be connected to crushed lava tubes from millions of years back. There are, however, some instances where parts of the tunnelsâ ceiling would cave in, which results in the supposed skylights the researchers had highlighted in their new study.
In a press release posted on the SETI website, SETI Institute and Mars Institute planetary scientist Pascal Lee said that it isnât absolutely sure if the holes represent skylights that lead into tunnels. The holes were spotted on the northeastern floor of the Philolaus Crater, a lunar feature located about 340 miles (550 kilometers) from the moonâs north pole.
âThe highest resolution images availab le for Philolaus Crater do not allow the pits to be identified as lava tube skylights with 100 percent certainty, but we are looking at good candidates considering simultaneously their size, shape, lighting conditions and geologic settingâ
While scientists have found more than 200 pits on the moonâs surface that are suspected to be skylights, Leeâs team appears to have found the first potential skylights ever discovered in the moonâs polar region, where water ice is known to build up. Assuming the lava tubes do indeed contain ice, CNET wrote that future moon travelers could possibly benefit from a source of usable water that wasnât believed to be available in the past.
Given the many questions that werenât answered by his teamâs study, Lee said that more research is needed to fully confirm if the holes are lava tube skylights and if the tunnels they are linked to contain water ice. The tubes themselves may also be a key factor as N ASA plans upcoming moon missions, may they be manned or unmanned, and decides where to land the spacecraft it will use.
In addition to helping NASA choose landing sites for moon missions, Lee said that the new lunar lava tube discovery could also prepare researchers for similar studies, this time looking into the possibility of lava tubes on Mars that might also be paths toward underground sources of water.Source: Google News