Friday, November 27, 2009

Seriously, What's Up with the Moon?

(To check out the actual picture of the hole, go to
What's this?  It's a big black hole on the moon.  And yet another "moon" posting?  Well, ...yes.  Because -WoW!-  All kinds of new discoveries are being made on our moon, "the moon."  (There's a moon in the sky and its called the moon).  First there was the recent (recent? really? Yes, quite recent actually) discovery of WATER on the moon.  Now, they (Junichi and friends) have discovered a "curiousity" in the appearance of a large black hole (a hole in the ground, not a 'blackhole') which scientists think must be a LAVA TUBE.  This is strange because usually lava tubes must appear as a series of holes, not just one singular hole.  Check out this clip from Way to go Japan.  The Kaguya satellite is doing its job, and so is Junichi.  Wow, Junichi is quite a name.  Sounds more like a name for some sort of puzzle or curse.
Junichi Haruyama and colleagues report that they have discovered a mysterious hole in the lunar surface in high resolution images from the Kaguya spacecraft. The hole is 65 meters in diameter and is located in the volcanic Marius Hills region on the near side of the moon, right in the middle of a long sinuous rille. Sinuous rilles are thought to be formed by flowing lava, either on the surface or in enclosed lava tubes.
Couldn't this hole be a fresh impact crater? Nope. Haruyama's team observed the hole nine separate times, at various illumination angles, and even when the sun was almost directly overhead it looked mostly black, suggesting that it is very deep. They calculate a depth of around 88 meters, so the hole is deeper than it is wide. No impact crater is like that. Another possibility is that the hole is due to some sort of volcanic eruption, but there is no sign of volcanic deposits like lava flows or ash emanating from the hole. The hole is isolated, so it isn't likely to be due to a fracture in the lunar crust either – you would expect such a fracture to form a chain of holes.
...So what exactly do they make of this looney lunar sphincter?...
Haruyama's team concluded that the most likely explanation is that the hole that they discovered is a "skylight" – a location where the roof of a lava tube collapsed, either when the lava filling the tube flowed away, or later in the moon's history due to an impact, moonquake, or tidal forces from the Earth. If it is a lava tube, their calculations based on the multiple images of the hole show that the tube could be 370 meters across.

Lava tubes are important in understanding how lava was transported on the early moon, but they are not just a scientific curiosity: they may also provide valuable refuges for future human explorers. The surface of the moon is not protected from the harsh radiation of space by a magnetic field or a thick atmosphere, so a long term human presence would be most feasible if astronauts could spend most of their time shielded underground.
So you see, this is quite a fascinating find for several reasons.  Holy Haruyama! -future human explorers could use these moon tubes as an early moonbase, perhaps.  I guess it makes sense that we are discovering scientific anomalies like this (and water on the moon) because we've only been to the moon less than a handful of times.  But still, the nagging question (Junichi) once again arises, "Why haven't we ever gone back to the moon?" 
Seriously though, why haven't we gone back to the moon?  I mean, we achieve this great feat and then ...just leave it at that?  Why would we go to our moon just once -except for a few "quick scoops" (as astronaut Col. Gordon Cooper explained)?  I've heard that we don't have the money, or that NASA is saving up for Mars, but, given the resources used and NASAs budget (not to mention the military's enormous black budget), that doesn't seem quite right.  This makes me wonder if those who claim that Armstrong described an intimidating alien presence on the moon aren't accurate after all.  But, ...who knows?  Perhaps it truly is just the money.  ....(doesn't seem right, I say)

Well, only 5 days till the full moon.  Check it out (binoculars are awesome on the moon!).  You may just observe some "transient lunar luminosities."  And speaking of full, I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday.  I sure did.  Butternut squash stuffed with pecans and marshmellow cream, mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, greenbean casserole, fresh baked bread, chestnut stuffing, celebration roast, pumpkin pie, quinoa pilaf, homemade applesauce....  so much to be thankful for.

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