To say that Earth’s moon is ‘strange’ is an understatement. In fact, the more we learn about our glowing satellite, the stranger and more mysterious it becomes. Relative to the size of the planet it orbits, Earth, it is the largest moon in the Solar System. It is the second densest, after Jupiter’s Io. Moreover, our moon is in synchronous rotation around Earth, meaning that it always presents the same face to us. Prior to the space program, the far side was often referred to as the “dark side,” not because it is dark (any spot on our Moon, save for the polar regions, experiences roughly two weeks of daylight, alternating with about two weeks of night) but because we never see it.
The average density of the Moon is 3.344 grams per cubic centimeter, about 60 percent of Earth’s, which means it is not an artificial, hollow spaceship as some have believed, although there may well be vast caverns in its crust, including lava tubes dwarfing those on Earth (see sidebar). NASA is already considering the astronaut housing possibilities in such immense spaces beneath the surface. These natural caverns have roofs estimated to be tens of meters thick, which would provide protection from the extreme conditions existing above the surface. The habitat would be protected from solar radiation, micro-meteorites, extreme temperature fluctuations—believed to be stable in lava tubes—as well as winds, and regolith dust storms that could threaten human health and technology. These naturally occurring shelters would also reduce the landed payload mass for manned missions and save on the costs of any mining. More on lava tubes later.
The Moon’s relatively low density means that it has fewer heavy elements than Earth, a slightly different chemical composition. But within each element, like oxygen or iron, there are certain ratios of different isotopes, chemically the same but with different numbers of neutrons in their atomic nuclei. The Moon’s isotope ratios are slightly different than those on Earth, making it possible to identify meteorites of lunar origin, presumably blasted off the Moon by asteroid impacts and found on Earth in places like Antarctica, where they are easy to spot and where we also find meteorites from Mars, with a much different isotope ratio.
The Moon’s formation is a mystery yet to be solved. If Earth and Moon had formed from the same accretion disk, they would have a near identical mix of elements and hence a near identical density, but they don’t. Furthermore, the Earth/Moon system has too much angular momentum to have been formed this way. The Moon orbits Earth west to east (the way the Earth turns on its axis) at just 5.14 degrees off our ecliptic—a plane passing through Earth’s equator. Astronomers believe that the odds against Earth capturing a satellite like the Moon are, well, astronomical. For it to be in its west-to-east equatorial orbit as well, though, is just about impossible.
The latest theory to explain the Moon postulates that a Mars-sized object collided with the young Earth after our planet’s nickel-iron core had formed and blasted a mass of our crust and mantle into orbit, where the material gradually cooled and accreted to form the Moon. It turns out, however, that the Moon’s crust on the side facing us is thinner than on the “dark” side, so astronomers have revised the theory and suggested that two satellites formed, and the smaller of the two collided at a low relative velocity with the larger, producing a thicker crust on one side and, as the Moon became tide-locked in synchronous rotation, that side happened to be the far side. But the velocities and angles would have had to be just right, making this formation theory about as improbable as the capture of a satellite. In addition, lava deposits on the Moon contain too much water, and the collision would have boiled off Earth’s water and the Moon’s, as well. Some suggest that the greater thickness of the crust on the far side may be due to more in-falling meteorites and space dust. Since the Moon has been in synchronous rotation for an estimated 3.8 billion years, Earth would likely block much of the material coming in from our side.
The strangeness, however, is just beginning. We can have total solar eclipses, because the Moon is one four-hundredth the diameter of the Sun, and is also 400 times closer. Due to tidal forces, the rotating Earth speeds up the Moon so it moves further out (and Earth’s axial rotation is slowed by the transfer of energy). But the rate of recession is very, very slow—the Moon recedes about 1.5 inches per year. This means that it has had approximately the same apparent size as the Sun for tens of millions of years—probably as long as humans have been around—producing total eclipses. Astronomers believe that the Moon has helped to stabilize Earth’s orbital rotation, keeping our climate relatively stable (compared, for example, to the climate of Mars) and making the rise of advanced life forms easier on this planet.
It can be argued that the science of astronomy would not have advanced as quickly as it did, had there not been an object that close, with its round shape and some surface features clearly visible in our sky. The Moon is close enough that the ancient Greeks—who knew that Earth is round and had measured its circumference with a fair degree of accuracy—also measured the distance to the Moon. Their figures were not accurate, but the Greeks at least knew that the Moon was a very long way off and, hence, very large. Eclipses of the Sun make it obvious that it is further from Earth than the Moon, and larger. The Sun’s corona is visible during a solar eclipse, and this has also helped us to understand the nature of the Sun. Would Kepler have developed his laws of planetary motion and Newton his law of gravity if we had not had visible tides on Earth, caused by the Moon’s gravity? Would we have developed space flight so soon if we had not had a clearly visible world relatively close to our own? So the Moon, whose formation has not really been explained, has been critical to the development of life on Earth—its size and distance just right to help us understand astronomy. Coincidences are piling up—perhaps something more than coincidence is involved.
When Venus—which is closer to the Sun than Earth and therefore orbiting at a higher speed—passes Earth with both planets on the same side of the Sun, this is called an “inferior conjunction.”Earth in its elliptical orbit will move 216 degrees before Venus passes us again, and so on. Ten times 216 is 2,160—and this “just happens” to be the Moon’s diameter in miles. The precession of the equinoxes takes just under 26,000 years, though there is some uncertainty about the exact time. Astrologers have traditionally used 25,920 years, which is divided into 12 astrological ages—each age lasts 2,160 years, and 20 times 2,160 is 43,200. Multiply that figure by the base perimeter of the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt and you get the Earth’s equatorial circumference. It is beginning to look as though ancient people knew a few things—maybe even some things that we seem to have forgotten. All of this hints to the fact that the arrangement of our Solar System may also be more than a coincidence. Remember that astronomers have discovered that systems like ours are exceedingly rare. Even though planetary systems seem common, almost all of those studied so far are radically different from ours.
There are unexplained things taking place on the surface of the Moon, called “transient Lunar phenomena (TLP).” Most of these probably have natural causes. The list includes mists on the airless Moon, brightenings and darkenings of the surface, and temporary patches of red, green, blue, and violet. On November 2, 1958, Russian astronomer Nikolai Kuzyrev saw an eruption—or outgassing—from the central peak of the Alphonsus Crater. Luminescence over wide areas has been reported by Earth-based astronomers and Apollo 11 astronauts who witnessed this phenomenon in the Aristarchus Crater. In fact, a third of all officially recognized TLPs are in or near Aristarchus. The Moon has relatively low internal heat; its heat flow is about one-fourth of Earth’s. But there are many “irregular mare patches” which resemble volcanic deposits and, judging from the paucity of impact craters on some of these, they may be less than 100 million years old, which is geologically recent, so the Moon may still have a little volcanic activity. Astronomers are sure that the Moon outgasses radon, CO, CO2, and nitrogen, much of it from Aristarchus. Also, the solar wind may electrostatically charge the finer dust particles in the Lunar regolith, or soil, causing them to be suspended above the surface, forming something analogous to an atmosphere. This might account for the distortion in a picture of Earth taken from lunar orbit.
In 2014, NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission found a pattern of rift valleys around the Oceanus Procellarum impact crater, arranged—not in the circle pattern that one might conventionally expect—but as an enormous rectangle. These rift valleys, it is suggested, may contain immense lava tubes that, someday soon, could serve as safe habitat for explorers from Earth (see sidebar on pg. 43). Late in 2017 the Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science announced in a paper for Geophysical Research Letters that its lunar radar satellite, the Kaguya orbiter, had located a giant—31 miles long—lava tube/tunnel in the Moon’s Marius Hills region. According to the Japanese study the ancient tunnel is more than 300 feet below the surface and may contain ice or water. The tunnel is the first, confirmed to be present, on the moon. Might such enormous cavities have previously sheltered visitors from other worlds? The answer awaits the lunar archaeologists of the future.
One rectilinear area on the Moon is said by some alternative researchers to resemble Los Angeles. Similar features can be found on Mars, the ‘Inca City,’ for example. One of the Mars orbiters recently photographed three towers in a straight line. The implication seems to be that intelligent beings once lived on both worlds, though some still wonder about Earth.
In 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts reported being followed for a time by a strange object as they neared the Moon, and subsequently other Apollo astronauts reportedly experienced the same thing. Astronauts orbiting the Moon have videotaped ‘Moon pigeons,’ objects that appear to be flying over the surface. The details were published in a 1970 NASA report (available on the Internet at Jamesoberg.com/moonpigeons.html). Maybe these are just paint flakes or ice crystals dislodged from the Command Module and appearing to be distant when they are, in fact, just inches away. Maybe. But we’ve heard this “explanation” before. Astronauts in Earth orbit have observed and recorded such objects actually changing speed and direction. NASA’s odd response was that thruster rockets on the Space Shuttle had been fired, causing the changes in direction. Background features (like Earth) on these tapes, however, do not appear to move as might be expected if the shuttle’s attitude had changed.
Meanwhile on Mars, that planet’s moons are almost as mysterious as our own. They, also, are in near circular—west-to-east—equatorial orbits and resemble carbonaceous C asteroids. The chance of two asteroids being captured in such perfect orbits is almost nil. American astronomer Asaph Hall discovered both in 1877; yet, in 1726, English author Jonathan Swift, in his Gulliver’s Travels, described two small moons orbiting close to Mars. His distances were off, but the prediction was still quite remarkable. Swift was, incidentally, a Freemason, and the Masons (or at least some of them) claim to possess ancient wisdom forgotten by most. In his book, Swift wrote that the inhabitants of the flying island of Laputa, an enormous, disk-shaped construction that was somehow magnetically suspended above the ground here on Earth, discovered these moons.
So our Moon, whose formation is still unexplained, appears to have aided the development of advanced life forms on Earth, and is in just the right orbit to allow total solar eclipses and to help us develop astronomy. While it may be an intellectual cop-out to explain every natural phenomenon as the work of God, or ‘a’ god, physical phenomena usually have an explanation. Studying the physical universe has greatly increased human knowledge and understanding, but, eventually, we must look for the first cause of anything. Atheist/materialist explanations don’t seem to work anymore. ‘Intelligent design’, as opposed to neo-Darwinism, seems much more plausible as an explanation for the development of life, but intelligent design requires a ‘designer’—one with incredible wisdom and power, pursuing a plan beyond our comprehension, taking billions of years to unfold. Is it just coincidence that the most common element in the universe is hydrogen, and that hydrogen is also the most common element in living organisms—including the human body—found in our water, proteins, and carbohydrates? Moreover, the most common chemical compound in the universe, found even in interstellar gas clouds, is water—the most abundant compound in the human body and most other life-forms. It is as if the universe, despite its violence and seeming hostility, was designed for life.
So, perhaps, our Moon’s ultimate lesson could be that the physical universe is more than physical and that, after exhausting all other explanations, it is time to consider the spiritual—the proposition that the entire universe is alive and conscious and that we are all a part of something infinitely larger than ourselves.
Hidden Living Space on Moon and Mars?
European Planetary Science Congress Press Release • September 2017
Lava tubes, underground caves created by volcanic activity, could provide protected habitats large enough to house streets on Mars or even towns on the Moon, according to research presented at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC), 2017, in Riga, capitol of the Baltic republic of Latvia. A further study shows how the next generation of lunar orbiters will be able to use radar to locate these structures under the Moon’s surface.
Lava tubes can form in two ways: ‘overcrusted’ tubes form when low-viscosity lava flows fairly close to the surface, developing a hard crust that thickens to create a roof above the moving lava stream. When the eruptions end, the conduit is drained leaving a tunnel a few meters beneath the surface. ‘Inflated’ tubes are complex and deep structures that form when lava is injected into existing fissures between layers of rock or cavities from previous flows. The lava expands and leaves a huge network of connected galleries as it forces its way to the surface. Lava tubes are found in many volcanic areas on Earth, including Lanzarote, Hawaii, Iceland, North Queensland in Australia, Sicily and the Galapagos islands. Underground networks of tubes on Earth can reach up to 40 miles. Space missions have also observed chains of collapsed pits and ‘skylights’ on the Moon and Mars that have been interpreted as evidence of lava tubes. Recently the NASA GRAIL mission provided detailed gravity data for the Moon that suggested the presence of enormous subsurface voids related to lava tubes below the lunar ‘Maria,’ plains of basalt formed in volcanic eruptions early in the Moon’s history.
Now, researchers from the University of Padova and the University of Bologna in Italy have carried out the first systematic comparison of lava tube candidates on Earth, the Moon, and Mars, based on high-resolution Digital Terrain Models (DTM) created from data from spacecraft instrumentation.
“The comparison of terrestrial, lunar, and martian examples shows that, as you might expect, gravity has a big effect on the size of lava tubes. On Earth, they can be up to thirty yards across. In the lower gravity environment of Mars, we see evidence for lava tubes that are over 250 yards in width. On the Moon, these tunnels could be half a mile or more across and hundreds of miles in length,” says Dr. Riccardo Pozzobon, of the University of Padova. “These results have important implications for habitability and human exploration of the Moon but also for the search of extraterrestrial life on Mars. Lava tubes are environments shielded from cosmic radiation and protected from micrometeorites flux, potentially providing safe habitats for future human missions. They are also, potentially, large enough for quite significant human settlements—you could fit most of the historic city center of Riga [several square miles] into a lunar lava tube.”
The work by Pozzobon and colleagues is already being used in the European Space Agency’s astronaut training program. The teams lead a planetary-geology training course called PANGAEA for the European Space Agency’s astronauts and engineers. The PANGAEA project has included a field trip and a test campaign in lava tubes in the Canary Island to familiarize the astronauts with geological research they could carry out during future missions to the Moon or Mars, as well as to test technical and operational systems. In particular, PANGAEA has focused on using laser technologies to characterize the Corona lava tube, a 5-mile long tunnel on Lanzarote.
In a separate talk at EPSC, Leonardo Carrer and colleagues of the University of Trento presented a concept for a radar system specifically designed to detect lava tubes on the Moon from orbit. The radar probes beneath the lunar surface with low frequency electromagnetic waves and measures the reflected signals. This radar instrument could accurately determine the physical composition, size, and shape of the caves and obtain a global map of their location.