Scientists Can Only Gaze Into The Darkest Craters of The Moon With The Help of an AI

The Moon is not a dark place. There are however dark spots, especially at the bottoms of craters. These are not accessible by sunlight regardless of where the Moon is facing.
Scientists have been fascinated by these areas for many decades. This is due to the fact that they lack sunlight, which means lower temperatures, which allows frozen materials to remain frozen. They may also contain water, in other words. Water will be the lifeblood for any future crewed lunar mission.

It's difficult to see the bottom of these craters due to lack of sunlight.

Scientists have been closest to the moon since LCROSS, a NASA mission, launched a projectile into Cabeus' crater. The resultant dust cloud contained a significant amount of water.

However, so far no one has been capable of visualizing the water in these craters.

However, this does not mean that the craters cannot be illuminated. Even though they aren't in direct sunlight, some reflected sunlight from nearby hills is still channeled into craters.

However, images taken with that reflected light are too noisy to discern any details.

A new technique has been developed by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany (MPS).

The algorithm they used was the Hyper-effective U-net Software for nOise Removal (HORUS). HORUS's primary objective is to "cleanup" noisy images from the bottom of unlit areas collected by other spacecraft such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, (LRO).

Above: A yet-unnamed crater. Left image is a photo taken by LRO. Its interior is nearly invisible. The right image shows the exact same image after processing with HORUS. (Left to right: NASA/LROC/GSFC/ASU; MPS/University of Oxford/NASA Ames Research Center/FDL/SETI Institute

The software must not only remove noise but also correct other factors such as LRO movement.

The researchers calibrated the software using 70,000 images taken by LRO. They then used the software to test 17 permanently dark areas at the lunar south pole.

The largest area was 54 km (20 mi) while the smallest was 0.18 km.

The image of the bottom is now much clearer thanks to the new software. The photos do not show any evidence of water.

Crewed missions that want to search for water under or in these craters' regoliths will need to first know the terrain they are entering.

Above: A selection of the craters located at the lunar south pole were studied. (MPS/University of Oxford/NASA Ames Research Center/FDL/SETI Institute

HORUS excels in defining such terrain. Researchers could find geological features that are only a few metres across which could pose a danger to a lander, or rover.

This was the first step towards exploring previously unexplored parts of the Moon. These areas will one day be accessible to humans with luck. With even greater luck, they may also provide an essential ingredient for all life on Earth.

Universe Today originally published this article. You can read the original article.


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