Earth's moon is shrinking and quaking, study says

14 May, 2019, 07:09 | Author: Darnell Taylor

The fault scarps themselves are also a clue.

Over the last several hundred million years, Nasa scientists have found the moon has reduced its size by 50 metres due to a cooling interior, and it is still tectonically active.

Researchers re-analysed seismic data they had from the moon to compare with the images gathered by the orbiter.

From the data analysed and algorithms used, researchers were able to determine eight of the 28 shallow quakes recorded were within 30 kilometres of faults and were visible in lunar images.

The team then superimposed this location data onto the LRO imagery of the thrust faults.

According to a new research study, the Moon may be shrinking as it experiences lunar quakes, known as "moonquakes".

These incredible findings were published today (May 13) in the journal Nature Geosciences.

"The Apollo 11 seismometer operated only for three weeks, but the four remaining recorded 28 shallow moonquakes - the type expected to be produced by these faults - from 1969 to 1977", the release says.

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Dr Watters led a study into seismometer data collected on the Moon by five Apollo lunar landing missions.

Earth isn't the only place that "quakes". Eight quakes occurred close to faults.

"Some of these quakes can be fairly strong, around five on the Richter scale."Some of the quakes also happened during a point in the moon's orbit when it was farthest from Earth, indicating that the tidal stress of Earth's gravity could have contributed to stress on the moon's crust".

He said: "Our analysis gives the first evidence that these faults are still active and likely producing moonquakes today as the Moon continues to gradually cool and shrink".

But unlike the flexible skin on a grape the moon's crust is brittle - causing it to break as the interior shrinks. Additionally, "Establishing a new network of seismometers on the lunar surface should be a priority for human exploration of the Moon, both to learn more about the Moon's interior and to determine how much of a hazard moonquakes present", said co-author Renee Weber, a planetary seismologist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The scarps form when one section of the moon's crust (left-pointing arrows) is pushed up over an adjacent section (right-pointing arrows) as the moon's interior cools and shrinks.

The scarps tend to be around 10yds high and a few miles long - making them resemble a giant stairway on the lunar surface.

The LRO has imaged more than 3,500 fault scarps on the moon since it began operation in 2009. These tracks are evidence of a recent quake because they should be erased relatively quickly, in geologic time scales, by the constant rain of micrometeoroid impacts on the Moon.

"This is exciting as it wasn't clear if the moon had already gone through this period billions of years ago and was tectonically dead, or if it was still active in the present", Schmerr said. For example, the Apollo missions detected about 11,000 moonquakes happening about 500 to 680 miles (800 to 1100 kilometers) beneath the lunar surface.


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