This dark splotch could be a portal to a buried lava tube on the moon. (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)
THE WOODLANDS, Texas –
A system of buried, empty lava tubes hides beneath the moon’s surface, remnants of a bygone age when the volcanically active moon launched fountains of fire into space.
At least, that’s what scientists think.
For years, teams have hunted for these elusive sublunar tunnels, which can be large and sturdy enough to house entire cities. In fact, lunar lava tubes could be ideal locations to establish a moon base, as their thick roofs would shield humans from things like harmful radiation and small meteorite impacts. But until now, the strongest observational hints of the tubes’ existence came from a smattering of detectable surface features, including skylights and rilles – or structures thought to form when tubes collapse.
This week, scientists announced that the signatures of at least 10 buried lava tubes could be written into a map of the moon’s gravitational field.
It’s “the strongest evidence yet that shows signals consistent with that of buried, empty lava tubes on the moon,” said Purdue University’s Rohan Sood, who presented the observations at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.