Moon colder than Pluto

From New Scientist:

Moon is coldest known place in the solar system

* 17:02 18 September 2009 by MacGregor Campbell

Poor Pluto. First it gets kicked out of the planet club, now it’s not even the coldest place in the solar system. Dark craters near the moon’s south pole have snatched that title – which is good news for the prospects of finding water ice on Earth’s companion.

The craters’ towering rims block the sun from reaching their centres, like the long shadows cast by tall buildings at dusk. In this permanent darkness, they stay at a constant -240 °Celsius – more than 30 °C above absolute zero and 10 °C cooler than Pluto, which was measured at -230 °C in 2006.

“The lunar south pole is among the coldest parts of the solar system and may be in fact colder than what we expect from places like Pluto,” NASA scientist Richard Vondrak said at a press conference on Thursday.

The cold temperature bodes well for the prospect of finding water ice deposits in the moon’s shadowy pockets. Previous calculations had shown that water and other volatile gases would dissipate into space at temperatures above about -220 °C.

Oct. 19, 2009 — NASA’s much-hyped mission to hurl a spacecraft into the moon turned out some worthwhile data after all, scientists said: here.

The deliberate crashing of a US rocket into the surface of the Moon has produced evidence of “a significant amount” of water ice, a discovery that could revolutionize the exploration of the Earth’s satellite and even open the way to long-term settlement. The impact experiment, conducted on October 9, produced such an immense trove of data that it took more than a month for the first preliminary results to be compiled: here.

Decades-Old Soviet Reflector Spotted on the Moon: here.

Humans have not set foot on the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972, but those missions are still producing surprises. An analysis of a collected rock has produced the first solid evidence for graphite, the form of carbon commonly used as pencil lead, in a lunar sample: here.

Photo Shows Far Side of Moon Like Never Before: here.

Time to rethink the Moon’s formation: here.

19 thoughts on “Moon colder than Pluto

  1. Please do not blindly accept the controversial decision by 424 astronomers to “kick Pluto out of the planet club.” Pluto is still a planet. Only four percent of the IAU voted on the controversial demotion, and most are not planetary scientists. Their decision was immediately opposed in a formal petition by hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. One reason the IAU definition makes no sense is it says dwarf planets are not planets at all! That is like saying a grizzly bear is not a bear, and it is inconsistent with the use of the term “dwarf” in astronomy, where dwarf stars are still stars, and dwarf galaxies are still galaxies. Also, the IAU definition classifies objects solely by where they are while ignoring what they are. If Earth were in Pluto’s orbit, according to the IAU definition, it would not be a planet either. A definition that takes the same object and makes it a planet in one location and not a planet in another is essentially useless. Pluto is a planet because it is spherical, meaning it is large enough to be pulled into a round shape by its own gravity–a state known as hydrostatic equilibrium and characteristic of planets, not of shapeless asteroids held together by chemical bonds. These reasons are why many astronomers, lay people, and educators are either ignoring the demotion entirely or working to get it overturned.


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