These are the days of deep cold that make you think about the atmosphere. Scientists say it’s “an insulating blanket” that filters out harmful rays and moderates the temperature on Earth. Yes, I’m grateful. But this is moderate? After a night with a low of -22 in Hibbing, suffering Minnesotans might well ask – how much worse would it be with no atmosphere at all?
If you consider our moon a reasonable test case, the answer is – a lot worse. The moon is, of course, roughly the same distance from the sun our Earth. With very, very little atmosphere, the permanently shadowed craters get to be -397 degrees Fahrenheit. The good news – there’s no wind – is also the bad news. No air.
A couple of days ago astronaut Neil Armstrong left a comment on Robert Krulwich’s blog at NPR that overturned my uninformed thinking about lunar weather. I look at this photo of Buzz Aldrin on a lunar walk during the Apollo 11 mission and I’m glad he has a suit to keep him alive in the brutally cold vacuum of space.
But actually, in this scene, it’s hot.
Armstrong told Krulwich “We were operating in a near perfect vacuum with the temperature well above 200 degrees Fahrenheit with the local gravity only one sixth that of Earth.”
I’m having a hard time getting my head around the idea of a hot moon.
Maybe this would help.
Where is your favorite sandy beach?