Moon and Regulus

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Moon and Regulus

Astronauts who spend a lot of time on the Moon will face many potential dangers. There’s no atmosphere, and temperatures can range from 250 degrees Fahrenheit to minus two-fifty. The jagged particles of lunar dust could clog machinery or get into the lungs, causing major health problems. And the lunar surface is blasted by radiation — from the Sun during the day, and from the rest of the universe both day and night.

Scientists have been measuring that radiation with an instrument on a Chinese lander. The probe touched down more than two years ago, on the lunar farside — the side we never see from Earth.

The instrument is enclosed inside a box that provides about the same protection as a spacesuit would for a person. Its measurements show that, over the course of a year, an astronaut would be exposed to about 200 times the average annual dosage here on Earth.

Because the dose would be spread out over such a long time, though, it’s not clear how much it would increase the risk of cancer or other health problems. And there are ways to limit the radiation, such as covering habitats with lunar dirt. Besides, it’ll be a long time before anyone is spending a year on the Moon. So while life there will be risky, it may not be impossible.

Look for the just-past-full Moon climbing into good view by about 7 o’clock this evening. A bright companion will stand close by: Regulus, the leading light of Leo, the lion.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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