Caves on the Moon!

Scientists have now identified more than 200 cave pits on the Moon.

The pits range in size from about 5 meters (~5 yards) across to more than 900 meters (~984 yards) in diameter, and three of them were first identified using images from the Japanese Kaguya spacecraft. Hundreds more were found using a new computer algorithm that automatically scanned thousands of high-resolution images of the lunar surface from LRO’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC).

This work is essentially the same as that done by James Fincannon and I back in 2011 (see links here, here, here, and here) but with much greater thoroughness.

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8 comments

  • David Hollick

    This is intriguing because obviously there can’t be karst on the moon. There has never been water, and life is necessary to form limestone and dolomite, negating the possibility of karst. Also, there is no tectonic activity to form caves. How can this be?

    • Hi Dave,

      Follow the links to my earlier articles on caves on the Moon. Most of these caves are variations of lava caves or tubes on Earth, formed by either volcanic activity or impact melting when a big meteor hits the surface.

      • David Hollick

        Ah, yes, impact melting. I hadn’t considered that. I had the impression that there was no volcanic activity on the moon, which I meant when I said no tectonic activity. But I could see the possibility of a “lava tube” resulting from impact melting. To go caving in 1/6 G would be incredible.

  • Keith

    Bob – have you scheduled your cave exploration trip there yet ?

    • Heh. My effort these days is to do as much as I can to encourage private enterprise in the aerospace industry, as that will lower the cost of getting to orbit. Eventually, that will make it cheap enough for ordinary cave bums like me to make the trip.

  • Tom Billings

    One thing I could *not* find in the article was even a URL for a list of the candidate lava tube sites. Better would be a collection of *all* the pics of the sites. Surely these should be online somewhere, beyond the standard LROC pics library. Even a list of pics within that library would help. Robert Wagner is quoted in the article, and is an LROC tech.

    • J Fincannon

      Ha! No, for some reason they do not provide such a list. Perhaps they are awaiting publication of more papers on the topic. I have asked nicely though…..

  • Orion314

    I consider these caves to be , hands-down-, the most important places for consideration for the 1st permanent moon base. Nothing else will come close to provide shielding such as this for the hard radiation, and it is “pre-fabbed” already to go. No excavating needed. Considering they’ve been there for eons, I would think they are very stable. I would love to see a rover like the Mars Spirit go down and give us a look see. I’m sure surprises wait in abundance..

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