The Cosmic Science behind The Grand Auld Stretch


The length of daylight is increasing this month, starting from nine hours and six minutes on February 1 and extending to 10 hours and 52 minutes by the end of the month. This change is attributed to the tilt of the Earth’s axis by 23.5 degrees, compared to the Moon’s 1.5 degrees tilt. As a result, the Moon experiences a relatively constant amount of daylight and night throughout the year, leading to the absence of seasons.

On the Moon, there are no solstices or equinoxes like on Earth. Instead, its days and nights each last for 29.5 Earth days, while its poles offer unique experiences due to their physical features. The northern lunar pole has mountain peaks continuously bathed in sunlight with temperatures reaching 120 degrees Celsius, whilst the southern pole has craters permanently in shadow, with temperatures dropping to -160 degrees Celsius.

If the Moon had an atmosphere, it would experience extreme weather patterns due to the significant temperature difference between its day and night sides, made more severe by its slow rotation. However, an atmosphere would also increase the challenges of living on the Moon, reinforcing the fact that the Moon could not serve as an alternative to Earth.

Despite the extreme temperatures on the Moon, there are pockets of water in the form of ice within the permanently shaded craters at the south pole. This water, believed to have been brought by asteroids or comets millions or billions of years ago, would be vital for supporting life on the Moon. As such, these areas are of particular interest for future lunar missions.

For instance, the Japanese SLIM mission that landed on the lunar surface in January aimed to test technologies that could enable astronauts to land within close proximity of their intended target. Such precision would be crucial for landing near these water-rich craters. Despite landing upside down, the mission was deemed a success.

In the grand scheme of things, impact craters on the Moon, formed from space collisions, now offer the best sanctuary for humans. This highlights the irony of our universe, where destructive events can create conditions for potential human habitation.



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