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Confirmed carbon dioxide ‘cold trap’ on the moon

TORONTO – Researchers have finally confirmed the presence of a carbon dioxide ‘cold trap’ on the moon after decades of research, a discovery integral to the long-term presence of robots or humans on the moon. that, according to a paper published last month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Similar to Pluto, the permanently shadowed regions at the Moon’s poles endure temperatures cold enough to allow carbon dioxide to solidify and remain solid even when summer peaks are negative. calendar.

The confirmation is likely to have “a major influence in shaping future Moon missions,” according to a news release, as future robotic or human explorers could use frozen carbon dioxide. cold for fuel or material for longer lunar explorations.

Carbon dioxide and other potential discoveries could also help scientists better understand the origins of water and other organic elements on the moon.

While cold traps have been introduced by researchers for years, the new study is the first to confirm and map their presence on the moon.

To find them, the researchers analyzed 11 years of data from the “Holy Lunar Radiation Measurement Experiment,” an instrument aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Their analysis shows that the lunar cold traps consist of several pockets centered around the Moon’s south pole, with a total area of ​​the traps of 204 square kilometers. Amundsen crater is the largest, with 82 square kilometers of cold traps. Temperatures in those areas remained below 60 degrees Kelvin or -213.15 C.

While confirming a cold carbon dioxide trap on the moon does not guarantee the existence of solid carbon dioxide there, the discovery suggests a high probability of future missions, the researchers said in the paper. hybrids can find carbon dioxide ice there.

If there is solid carbon dioxide in the cold trap, the researchers suggest that it could be used as a resource in the production of steel, rocket fuel and biomaterials, which would be essential for the sustained surface of a robot or a man on the moon.

Scientists can also study solid carbon dioxide to better understand how organic compounds form and what types of natural molecules can be produced in those extreme environments – it could well be traces for water sources on the lunar surface.

“These should be high-priority sites to target for future landing missions,” said planetary scientist Paul Hayne. “This is the kind of point that defines where you can go on the lunar surface to answer some of the big questions about volatiles (chemical compounds) on the moon and their distribution from elsewhere in the system. Sun.”

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