The Apollo 17 astronauts used the lunar rover to get around. Image Credit: NASA
Tapes containing data recorded on the Moon back in the 1970s have helped to solve a long-running mystery.
During the Apollo 15 and 17 missions in 1971 and 1972, astronauts deployed special probes designed to relay data back to the Earth about the heat coming from the Moon's interior.
When the data was later analyzed, scientists found a strange increase in temperature that for decades afterwards would remain something of a mystery. To make matters worse, only the tapes containing this data from 1971 to 1974 were preserved - the 1975 to 1977 tapes were lost.
It wasn't until these tapes showed up eight years ago that efforts to solve the mystery could resume.
Now, following an extensive analysis of the data from the missing tapes, scientists have been able to determine that the cause of the mysterious heat on the Moon was the Apollo astronauts themselves.
More specifically, their activity on the surface resulted in the Moon reflecting slightly less of the Sun's light back out in to space, thus raising the temperature by a small amount.
"In the process of installing the instruments you may actually end up disturbing the surface thermal environment of the place where you want to make some measurements," said lead study author Seiichi Nagihara from Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
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