Researchers from Norway discover that the Moon's tides influence the release of methane from the ocean floor.
- Sensitive instruments reveal methane beneath the Arctic Ocean for the first time.
- The gas is released in cycles that correspond to the tides.
- Rising warming oceans may help to contain the greenhouse gas.
Tidal methane<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk4NDU4OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MzMxNTkwNX0.dbRoA5swH03DwULPTFLuq15OBPcsrjShpyj_9vI9c6k/img.jpg?width=980" id="f0ff9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="81ddbfa5e3fca1229593d48478bd1223" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2048" data-height="1159" />
Screenshot of visualization from researchers' data
Credit: Andreia Plaza Faverola<p> <a href="https://www.edf.org/climate/methane-other-important-greenhouse-gas" target="_blank">Methane</a> often takes second billing to carbon dioxide in discussions of climate change, likely because it dissipates much more quickly. However, its warming effect is actually far more intense that CO<sup>2</sup>'s — it is 84 times more potent. Methane makes up about 25 percent of our greenhouse gases. </p><p> <a href="https://cage.uit.no/2020/12/11/the-moon-controls-the-release-of-methane-in-arctic-ocean/" target="_blank">Says</a> co-author of the study <a href="https://cage.uit.no/employee/andreia-plaza-faverola/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Andreia Plaza Faverola</a>, "We noticed that gas accumulations, which are in the sediments within a meter from the seafloor, are vulnerable to even slight pressure changes in the water column. Low tide means less of such hydrostatic pressure and higher intensity of methane release. High tide equals high pressure and lower intensity of the release." </p><p> This phenomenon has not been previously observed. While significant gas hydrate concentrations have been sampled in the area, no methane release had been documented. "It is the first time that this observation has been made in the Arctic Ocean," says co-author <a href="https://cage.uit.no/employee/jochen-knies/" target="_blank">Jochen Knies</a>. "It means that slight pressure changes can release significant amounts of methane. This is a game-changer and the highest impact of the study." </p>
Detecting the tidal story<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk4NDYwMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2ODI5OTI0OH0.vfKQ8xqksfRHMaE9FqemZc3s-mZ-kBCHkltGBRT8V_E/img.png?width=980" id="8a168" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a6c69a000368a89bce0ca7b11bab3b77" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2048" data-height="1251" />
Screenshot from video of piezometer out of the water
Credit: Przemyslaw Domel<p>The researchers buried a tool called a piezometer in the sediment on the ocean floor, and left it in place for four days. During that time, the instrument made hourly measurements of pressure and temperature in the sediments, and these indicated the presence of methane close to the sea floor, increasing at low tide and decreasing at high tide.</p><p>Their first notable observation was, of course, the presence of the gas on the Arctic Ocean floor despite a lack of other more visible indicators of its presence. "This tells us that gas release from the seafloor is more widespread than we can see using traditional sonar surveys," says Plaza Faverola. "We saw no bubbles or columns of gas in the water." She credits the watchful presence of the piezometer for making the discovery: "Gas burps that have a periodicity of several hours won't be identified unless there is a permanent monitoring tool in place, such as the piezometer."</p><p>Enthuses Knies, "What we found was unexpected and the implications are big. This is a deep-water site. Small changes in pressure can increase the gas emissions but the methane will still stay in the ocean due to the water depth."</p><p>Of course, not all the Earth's waters are equally deep, and there may not be enough water weight in some places to contain the methane below. "But what happens in shallower sites?" asks Knies. "This approach needs to be done in shallow Arctic waters as well, over a longer period. In shallow water, the possibility that methane will reach the atmosphere is greater."</p>
The weight of water<p>The basic mechanics at play are simple. Higher tides mean more water pressing down on the methane, and this increased pressure keeps it from rising away from the sea floor. Low tide means less water, less pressure, and a greater opportunity for the methane to escape.</p><p>The researchers note in their study that this simple relationship may actually offer a silver lining to the rising of the world's ocean as the planet cools. There will be more water, and thus more pressure to keep methane from escaping up and into the atmosphere. In essence, higher sea levels may have something of a cooling effect by keeping methane out of the atmosphere.</p><p>In the end, there's not much we can do about the Moon and its tides, but the more knowledge we have of the mechanisms behind climate change the better.</p><p>As Plaza Faverola puts it:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Earth systems are interconnected in ways that we are still deciphering, and our study reveals one of such interconnections in the Arctic: The moon causes tidal forces, the tides generate pressure changes, and bottom currents that in turn shape the seafloor and impact submarine methane emissions. Fascinating!"</p>
Researchers find a key clue to the evolution of bony fish and tetrapods.
- A new study says solar and lunar tide impacts led to the evolution of bony fish and tetrapods.
- The scientists show that tides created tidal pools, stranding fish and forcing them to get out of the water.
- The researchers ran computer simulations to get their results.
Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains the Tides<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9913a65f847775722d7c23d40d78938b"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dBwNadry-TU?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Water may be far more abundant on the lunar surface than previously thought.
- Scientists have long thought that water exists on the lunar surface, but it wasn't until 2018 that ice was first discovered on the moon.
- A study published Monday used NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy to confirm the presence of molecular water..
- A second study suggests that shadowy regions on the lunar surface may also contain more ice than previously thought.
Credits: NASA/Daniel Rutter<p>Still, it's not as if the moon is dripping wet. The observations suggest that a cubic meter of the lunar surface (in the Clavius crater site, at least) contains water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million. That's roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water. In comparison, the same plot of land in the Sahara desert contains about 100 times more water.</p><p>But a second study suggests other parts of the lunar surface also contain water — and potentially lots of it. Also publishing their findings in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-020-1198-9#_blank" target="_blank">Nature Astronomy</a> on Monday, the researchers used the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to study "cold traps" near the moon's polar regions. These areas of the lunar surface are permanently covered in shadows. In fact, about 0.15 percent of the lunar surface is permanently shadowed, and it's here that water could remain frozen for millions of years.</p><p>Some of these permanently shadowed regions are huge, extending more than a kilometer wide. But others span just 1 cm. These smaller "micro cold traps" are much more abundant than previously thought, and they're spread out across more regions of the lunar surface, according to the new research.</p>
Credit: dottedyeti via AdobeStock<p>Still, the second study didn't confirm that ice is embedded in micro cold traps. But if there is, it would mean that water would be much more accessible to astronauts, considering they wouldn't have to travel into deep, shadowy craters to extract water.</p><p>Greater accessibility to water would not only make it easier for astronauts to get drinking water, but could also enable them to generate rocket fuel and power.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Water is a valuable resource, for both scientific purposes and for use by our explorers," said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist in the advanced exploration systems division for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, in a statement. "If we can use the resources at the Moon, then we can carry less water and more equipment to help enable new scientific discoveries."</p>
New research explains why the Moon's crust is magnetized by debunking one long-standing theory.
Moon mission 2.0: What humanity will learn by going back to the Moon | Michelle Thaller | Big Think<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c97eca7a853afe3bcf42f075bd85b43c"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4vAiCSTV9lQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The future of cities on the Moon, Mars and orbital habitats.
- In the 1970s NASA published an extensive book on urban planning in space.
- Acclaimed architectural and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) designed a conceptual plan for the first permanent settlement for human life on the moon.
- An MIT team developed a concept for the first sustainable cities on Mars to be built in the next century.
Building a city on the Moon<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ3NDMxNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDMxODkxOH0.Xi6ec1PTCdUYZ177T6GCjnj-OI7ZuhAIm6-DCiyaBUk/img.jpg?width=980" id="bba0a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="eb63644f2a550aec5a72ae547bc59fca" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="800" data-height="509" />
Wikimedia Commons | Source: NASA Ames Research Centre<p>What would it take to build a full scale city on the moon? Skidmore, Owings & Merrill recently threw their hat in the proverbial moon ring.</p> <p>In partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), SOM presented a conceptual design for their "Moon Village." In a press statement, Design Partner Colin Koop talked about the new challenges needed for architectural design in space.</p> <p>"The project presents a completely new challenge for the field of architectural design. The Moon Village must be able to sustain human life in an otherwise uninhabitable setting. We have to consider problems that no one would think about on Earth, like radiation protection, pressure differentials, and how to provide breathable air."</p> <p>Masterplanning, designing and engineering the imagined settlement, SOM imagines are cross-disciplinary collaboration and an entirely new way to approach the space industry's most complex problems. </p> <ul><li>The Moon Village is imagined on the edge rim of the Shackleton Crater near the South Pole.</li><li>This area was selected because it receives near continuous daylight throughout the whole lunar year. </li><li>Overall development plans were envisioned in three distinct phases to set up infrastructure, resources and habitable structures. </li></ul> <p>The Moon Village would sustain its energy from direct sunlight and set up food generation and life-sustaining elements through in situ resource utilization by tapping into the Moon's natural resources. Water extracted from the depressions near the South Pole would create breathable air and rocket propellants to support the burgeoning industry in the town. By being near the South Pole, the town would have direct access to the crater's water-ice deposits.</p> <p>As for habitats for lunarites to live in, there would be individual pressurized modules which are inflatable, giving residents the flexibility to increase their living space when needed. </p> <p>Most buildings would be three to four story structures that would serve as a combined workspace, living quarter and have the necessary environmental and life support systems integrated into each one. </p> <p>The Moon Village was created for the ESA's reflection of future exploration beyond 2050 in partnership with NASA's strategic plan to "extend human presence deeper into space and to the Moon for sustainable long term exploration and utilization." </p> <p>A pioneer Moon Village could set in stone the first opportunity to permanently inhabit the moon, spur research and explorations and serve as a gateway to the rest of the solar system and beyond. </p>
Designing cities in Space Colonies<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ3NDMyMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzcyNDc3Nn0.bT4IDOLBQp4Udt3yVnkRVGWo-iVLNLw9sAM1rXaBiVM/img.jpg?width=980" id="3b518" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="170a0a6a3f8cb47e1dd3adffa3c3bf7f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="5718" data-height="4525" />
Wikimedia Commons | Source: NASA Ames Research Centre<p>Such ring habitats have been a common sight in science fiction for years, from Halo's massive ring worlds to Neuromancer's Tessier-Ashpool floating Freeside. But physicists have known for quite some time that they're actually possible to build. When space becomes more accessible, these would be the first contenders for habitation.</p><p>In NASA's "Space Settlements" study, researchers dedicated a few chapters on basic comprehensive plans, which is a deep dive into how much space would be needed for residential housing, schools and other land uses combined with transportation and other infrastructure. As for transportation, the book again goes into detail: </p><p>"Because of the relatively high population density (15,000 people/km2) in the community, most of the circulation is pedestrian, with one major mass transport system (a moving sidewalk, monorail, and minibus) connecting different residential areas in the same colony."</p><p>These floating cylinders with artificial gravity would survive by creating from the natural resources of outer space. Again in the 1970s Princeton physicist Gerald K O'Neill laid out compelling studies where he envisioned 100,000-person colonies, stationed at what is known as the fifth Lagrangian libration point (L5) in the moon's orbit. </p><p>"It is orthodox to believe that Earth is the only practical habitat for Man, but we can build new habitats far more comfortable, productive and attractive than is most of Earth," he wrote in Physics Today in 1974.</p><p>He was interested in building alternative human habitats that were both beyond Earth and beyond a planetary body. Out of this was conceived the idea of a giant rotating spaceship, which could support a biosphere and house up to 10 million people.</p>
Planning the first cities on Mars<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ3NDMyMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzODM5MDM5MX0.Z98AD3Wu9guYDb-Ex7RhcIoyI0dHzi4FCi-NY2uL3Ro/img.jpg?width=980" id="0eb6d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e7e09f128673a24454bc8e0526ff1ec6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="776" data-height="600" />
Wikimedia Commons | Source: NASA Ames Research Centre<p>In 2017, an MIT team developed a design for a settlement that won the Mars City Design competition. MIT's winning urban plan, titled Redwood forest, proposed to create domes or tree habitats that would house up to 50 people each. The domes provided residents with open public spaces containing vegetation and water, which would be harvested from deep in the Martian northern plains.</p><p>The tree habitats would be connected on top of a network of tunnels, or roots, providing transportation and access to both public and private spaces between other inhabitants of this proposed 10,000 strong community. Advanced technology such as artificial light inside these pods could strongly mimic the sight of natural sunlight.</p><p>MIT postdoc Valentina Sumini who led the interdisciplinary team, described the project's design fundamentals and elaborated on the project's poetic forest metaphor: </p><p>"On Mars, our city will physically and functionally mimic a forest, using local Martian resources such as ice and water, regolith (or soil), and sun to support life. Designing a forest also symbolizes the potential for outward growth as nature spreads across the Martian landscape. Each tree habitat incorporates a branching structural system and an inflated membrane enclosure, anchored by tunneling roots. </p><p>The design of a habitat can be generated using a computational form-finding and structural optimization workflow developed by the team. The design workflow is parametric, which means that each habitat is unique and contributes to a diverse forest of urban spaces."</p><p>The team aims to build a comfortable environment and architecture that focuses on the fundamental and critical aspect of sustainability, a baseline component needed for any Mars or offworld city. </p><p>On the entirety of the system, System Design Management Fellow George Lordos summed up the functionality by explaining the holistic and connected system they imagined. </p><p>"Every tree habitat in Redwood Forest will collect energy from the sun and use it to process and transport the water throughout the tree, and every tree is designed as a water-rich environment. Water fills the soft cells inside the dome providing protection from radiation, helps manage heat loads, and supplies hydroponic farms for growing fish and greens. Solar panels produce energy to split the stored water for the production of rocket fuel, oxygen, and for charging hydrogen fuel cells, which are necessary to power long-range vehicles as well as provide backup energy storage in case of dust storms."</p>