A few giant holes were recently identified on the moon using high-resolution images from the Japanese Kaguya spacecraft. Subsequently, a computer algorithm was developed that allowed automatic scanning of thousands of high-resolution images of the moon’s surface using NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Narrow Angle Camera, which has revealed about 200 of these giant holes on the moon’s surface.
It is a mystery how these holes were formed. The suggestion that has won the most favor is that these giant holes were created when the top of a void space or cave collapsed. The void spaces may have been created when molten rock streams were flowing under the moon’s surface and then drained away. There are dark areas on the moon that are made of solidified lava that extend for hundreds of miles. These dark areas were called maria in ancient times because they looked like oceans on the moon when viewed from the Earth. What makes the idea that the giant holes were formed over lava flow voids a bit shaky, however, is that the giant hole openings have a very regular shape, which is almost a perfect circle.
The diameters of the giant holes on the moon range from about 16 feet to about 2,900 feet. The walls of the giant holes appear to be steep and smooth, according to the images made public. The officials who have studied these giant holes on the moon have said that they can be clearly distinguished from the many craters that exist on the moon’s surface. Craters are thought to be due to impact forces from objects from space that hit the moon.
The giant holes on the moon have been called pits and it has been suggested that they lead to a cave system under the moon’s surface. These pits and caves are being touted as potential living spaces for future astronauts. Creating a habitat for astronauts to live on the moon in these pits is considered a good idea because it would be a safe place with little dust, no radiation and relatively steady temperatures. Cave systems on Earth are known to be good spaces for living for essentially the same reasons, with a relatively constant temperature being most appealing.
An interesting development that has been in the media recently is the giant holes found in Siberia here on Earth. The giant holes in Siberia have an eerie similarity in that the openings to the giant holes have a similar regularity in that they have a nearly perfect circular opening. The sizes of the giant holes in Siberia are not too far off from the giant holes found on the moon. There is no official explanation for how the giant holes in Siberia formed, and researchers are just beginning to study them, but the idea that a collapse to an underground void or cave system just may be a consideration. The very circular pits found on the moon will surely be studied and explored in the near future.
By Margaret Lutze
(See GLV article Giant Holes in Siberia)