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This picture shows the Moon's South Pole. Some areas near the pole are in dark shadows all of the time. There might be water ice in some of those shady places.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy NASA.

The Moon's Poles

The North and South Pole of the Moon are interesting places. Some areas near the Moon's poles are almost always in sunlight. Other places near the poles are always in dark shadows.

Earth is tilted on its axis by 23. This tilt causes our seasons. During summer it is always light near the pole, but in the winter it is dark all the time. The Moon is hardly tilted at all (less than 2), so it doesn't have seasons. Places near the Moon's poles are always on the edge between day and night.

High mountains near the Moon's poles might get sunlight almost all of the time. That would be a great place for explorers to build solar panels. The panels would make electricity almost all of the time, since they would almost always be in sunlight. There are peaks near the North Pole and near the South Pole on the Moon that are probably lit nearly all of the time.

There are also some really dark, cold places near the Moon's poles. The bottoms of some deep craters may be in dark shadows all of the time. That would make them very cold, since they wouldn't be heated by sunlight. There might even be water ice in some of those dark craters. Ice could tell us a lot about the Moon's history. It could also be used by astronauts as drinking water, to make oxygen to breath, and to create rocket fuel.

Last modified August 24, 2009 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA