Space travel: what time is it on the moon? Science ponders
A coffee date at 3:30 p.m. at Lunar Base 32, which is on the moon. Such a meeting could not take place at the moment. Not only because no coffee is currently being served on the earth satellite and there is no base 32. But above all because there is no official moon time. However, various expeditions and the colonization of the celestial body in the coming decade will depend on a common time in order to be able to orientate oneself and cooperate better.
With permanent bases on the moon, a new approach is needed
According to an article in the journal Nature, scientists around the world are discussing how the clocks on the moon should tick in the future. International researchers therefore met in November in the Netherlands to exchange solutions to the topic. They must come to an agreement in the coming years to prevent time chaos on the moon.
So far, moon expeditions have been based on the coordinated world time UTC, but have not been synchronized with each other. With a previously manageable number of spaceships and missions on and around the moon, this did not pose a major problem. With the planned construction of permanent bases on the satellite, which will lead to a significant increase in people and vehicles there, a new one is needed Approach.
“Chaos” in determining position on the moon
Scientists like Jörg Hahn, an expert at the European Space Agency ESA, therefore see the need for a common moon time in order to make cooperation and communication possible: “All of this has to be traced back to a kind of time reference, otherwise chaos reigns and things don’t fit together,” says Rooster to Nature.
This is particularly important in order to be able to determine positions on the moon using a GPS-like technology. The coordinates of a person or a vehicle are displayed in conjunction with three satellites. The time it takes for the signals from each of the satellites to reach that point gives the position. The basic requirement for this is a universally valid time.
Clocks tick faster on the moon
On the moon, however, there are a few pitfalls: First of all, according to the theory of relativity, the clocks run a little faster there. Because the moon has a weaker gravitational field than Earth, NASA scientist Cheryl Gramling estimates that time there runs 56 microseconds – or 56 millionths of a second – faster per 24 hours. And even that tiny shift can make a big difference when it comes to location and communication.
On this basis, there are several ways to determine the new moon time: The time measured by several atomic clocks on the celestial body could be adjusted to the coordinated universal time at regular intervals, so that the earth and moon are synchronized. But it would also be possible to let the slightly faster running time on the moon continue independently and to show the growing difference to coordinated universal time.
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According to Nature, independent times could make sense, especially with a view to the future colonization of other celestial bodies, for which a time synchronization with Earth would be logistically more difficult. Another question that arises: should regions of the moon be divided into different time zones like on earth? In any case, it is likely that the 24-hour system on Earth will also remain important for people in space, the reason being, among other things, the natural sleep rhythm – on the moon it lasts an average of 29.5 days from noon to noon.
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