New study shows the Moon is shrinking

Katie Ramirez
Мая 14, 2019

The moon is slowly shrinking over time, which is causing wrinkles in its crust and moonquakes, according to photos captured by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. They developed an algorithm that enabled them to get a more accurate location for the epicenters of each quake.

"It's really remarkable to see how data from almost 50 years ago and from the LRO mission has been combined to advance our understanding of the moon while suggesting where future missions intent on studying the moon's interior processes should go", said Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Project Scientist John Keller. "That always leads you to the intriguing possibility that maybe these things are still active, and maybe these faults are showing us current tectonic activity on the moon", Watters said.

Scientists say the moon's interior is cooling and causing it to shrivel up like a raisin. Researchers suggested these faults were evidence of lunar tectonics, although it was unclear how recent this activity was. Unlike the flexible skin of a grape when it shrinks into a raisin, the moon's brittle crust breaks. These are cliffs caused by the Moon's surface shearing away from itself, thanks to long-term shrinking and contracting of the surface.

The moon may be dynamic and tectonically active like Earth - not the inert world some scientists had believed it to be - based on a new analysis disclosed on Monday of quakes measured by seismometers in operation on the moon from 1969 and 1977. Each of the magnitudes of the 28 moonquakes would register as somewhere between two and five on the Richter scale if they had been carried out on Earth. The study was published May 13 in Nature Geoscience.

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Astronauts placed five different seismometers during the subsequent Apollo missions from Apollo 11 to Apollo 16. Previous research suggested that these deep moonquakes resulted from Earth's gravitational pull on the lunar interior, much as how the moon's gravitational pull on Earth's waters results in the tides, said study co-author Nicholas Schmerr, a planetary seismologist at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Six out of the eight tectonically active moonquakes occurred when the Moon was at or close to its apogee, the point where it's most distant from Earth and where the diurnal and recession stresses create the most compression near the tidal axis.

More than 3,500 of the faults have been identified by the LRO. Some of these images show landslides or boulders at the bottom of relatively bright patches on the slopes of fault scarps or nearby terrain.

John Keller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said: "It's really remarkable to see how data from almost 50 years ago and from the LRO mission has been combined to advance our understanding of the Moon while suggesting where future missions intent on studying the Moon's interior processes should go". "With a larger network of modern seismometers, we could make huge strides in our understanding of the moon's geology", added Schmerr. Researchers made this conclusion after analysing images taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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