A lava tube is formed when molten lava spews through the earth. The lava on the outside of the tube cools against soil or rock, forming a shell, while the hot molten part rushes through. The result is a cave. But the earth isn’t the only place with lava tubes. Mars has really big ones, and on the moon, they are even bigger.
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“The largest lava tubes on Earth are maximum [about] 40 meters [130 feet] of width and height,” said study co-author Riccardo Pozzobon, a geoscientist at the University of Padova, Italy. “So like a very large motorway tunnel.”
That’s certainly big enough space for some people to fit inside. But on Mars collapsed lava tubes tend to be about 80 times larger than Earth’s, with diameters of 130 to 1,300 feet (40 to 400 m). Lunar lava tubes seem to be still larger, the researchers found, with collapse sites 300 to 700 times the size of Earth’s. Lunar lava tubes likely range from 1,600 to 3,000 feet (500 to 900 m).
A lava tube on the moon, Pozzobon told Live Science, could easily contain a small city within its walls.
(Image credit: Dave Bunnell/Under Earth Images)