Feeds

Underground tunnel complexes FOUND ON MOON

Boffins offer 'lava' thesis, poohpooh alien/Elvis theories

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Space boffins believe they may be on the verge of discovering a vast, hidden network of tunnels beneath the surface of the Moon.

Pit crater in the Mare Tranquillitatis. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Collapsed pit-crater shaft leading down to a sub-selenean tunnel?

The tunnels aren't thought to be the work of long-extinct (or perhaps still surviving) intelligent moon aliens, perhaps driven to adopt a subterranean existence by a notional disappearing atmosphere aeons ago. Nor is any involvement by Tibetans, Elvis or others seeking a secluded dwelling far from prying human eyes suspected.

Instead, top moonologists think that they may be on the track of "lava tubes" not dissimilar to those of Earth. A lava tube, unsurprisingly, is a tube in solid surrounding rock along which at some point liquid lava has flowed (or is still flowing, in some Earthly cases).

View down a skylight revealing magma racing through a lava tube in Hawaii. Credit: Mark Robinson

View down into an Earthly lava tube.

When the lava cools and solidifies, there is often an open space left above its surface, forming a tunnel.

In some cases, parts of the roof of such a tunnel will collapse, forming a so-called "pit crater". If the pit crater forms while the lava is still flowing, it will have a smooth bottom. If the collapse happens once the lava has hardened, the bottom of the pit crater will be home to a pile of rubble.

Scientists analysing results from our old friend the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), placed into a very low Moon orbit by NASA so as to map our satellite in great detail, believe they may have found such pit craters - so pointing the way to subterraneanselenean lava-tube tunnels.

"To date, we have about ten candidate pits awaiting confirmation," report boffins at the LRO Camera team.

"Do these pits provide access to open lava tubes?" they ask.

That's a question which the LRO scientists will attempt to answer by snapping pics from the LRO at such angles - and with the Sun at such a position in the sky above - that they could spot overhangs indicating whether or not the possible lava-tube tunnels are still "open and accessible".

President Obama has lately stated that there will be no manned return to the Moon, as had formerly been planned (indeed without the Moon-return plans it is unlikely that NASA would have bothered to send up the LRO).

However there are less ambitious plans for robotic visits to Earth's satellite - some of them even, perhaps, featuring a tunnelling mole-cruiser subselenean probecraft.

Humanity may yet one day gaze upon the mysteries lying hidden in the Moon's unseen, cavernous tunnel complexes - if only by proxy. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.