Originator of lunar “peaks of eternal light” concept

Various spacecraft have attempted to address a hypothesized effect near the poles of the Moon called “peaks of eternal light”.  BMDO/NASA’s Clementine spacecraft, ESA’s Smart-1 spacecraft, JAXA’s Kaguya spacecraft and NASA’s LRO spacecraft have all gathered data to try to see if there are any spots at the North or South Poles of the Moon that are illuminated year round.  Such a location would be extraordinarily valuable real estate because you could simply deploy a solar array and generate all the power you need for a base or resource processing plant.

The French popularizer of astronomy Flammarion is often claimed to be the originator of the idea in 1879.  He stated that there were possibly mountain peaks near the poles of the Moon which owing to their location were always in the sunlight. Fortuitously, in 2009, I came across a book in German by the astronomers Beer and Madler (1837) predating Flammarion’s idea by 42 years. In “Der Mond nach seinen kosmischen und individuellen Verhältissen oder allgemeine vergleichende Selenographie”, they say “..many of these peaks have (with the exception of eclipses caused by the Earth) eternal sunshine”.  These guys were pretty smart I say!

This digitized book link occurred after I got a library to loan me an original edition, a nice an musty big crinkly paged book of which I copied the pages of interest.

Anyway, its not looking too good for these lunar peaks of eternal light using LRO data. Neither SMART-1 or Kaguya or LRO found any. Some lunar scientists suggest that maybe connecting various spots together either with power cables or beamed power would approach 100% illumination.  Its too bad that the distance is fairly prohibitive (solar arrays can be very light, but harness and especially beamed power can get heavy).  Others have suggested driving around to follow the Sun.  Due to the way the shadows are cast by near and distant terrain, this also does not seem feasible (e.g. the light spot you are following suddenly disappears, but another appears behind you… which way to go??, its not like a cat following a laser light because the light effectively turns on and off… poor cat!).  Other have suggested building high towers.  Unfortunately, for this to work (100% illumination year round) the towers have to be very tall to help avoid high mountain caused shadows that sweep the poles.  And even thought he gravity is less, >1 kilometer tall towers are pretty heavy (might as well just buy some batteries or fuel cells).

I discovered the Beer and Madler reference in January 2009.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s