Our Moon is Shrinking! NASA Study Reveals Lunar Surface is Experiencing Moonquakes

16 May, 2019, 06:50 | Author: Emmett Howard
  • The moon is shrinking like a grape — and that may be causing ‘moonquakes,’ NASA says | The Kansas City Star

After its formation, the moon's interior cooled over time, causing the surface of the moon to shrink the same way a grape shrivels up into a raisin, according to NASA.

Over the last several hundred million years this cooling has caused the moon to shrink about 50m in size.

Since the Moon's crust is brittle, these forces break the surface as the interiors start shrinking. But 28 of those quakes were relatively shallow and powerful - one had a magnitude of 5.5, according to a NASA factsheet. They had to zig-zag their lunar rover up and over the cliff face of the Lee-Lincoln fault scarp that cuts across this valley. The study was published in Nature Geoscience on May 13.

A recent study has analyzed this quake data using an algorithm that can better estimate the quake locations.

"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.

The thrust faults were expected to produce such quakes and their intensities ranged from two to five on the Richter scale. Six of them also occurred when the Moon was either at its apogee, the farthest point in its orbit around the Earth, or close to it.

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NASA posted a video on Twitter showing fault lines on the moon's surface.

Researchers believe this process is still active on the moon, meaning it is still changing and still experiencing quakes.

The New York Times' Robin George Andrews reports that there were explanations for numerous shakes. Meteorite collisions caused some, others were attributed to Earth's gravitational pull and others were caused by huge 500-degree temperature changes on the moon when night turns to day. Cutting across the valley, just above the landing site, is the Lee-Lincoln fault scarp.

"I think it is very attractive that 50 years after Apollo, the Artemis program will carry the next man and the first woman to the Moon", Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator said in a statement. And if we're planning to built outposts on the Moon, we'll probably want to know a bit more about these moonquakes.

Trump confirmed the news in a Monday tweet, saying his administration was "restoring NASA to greatness" and that "we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!". NASA said in its FY2020 budget amendment it needed an additional $1.6 billion to help fund "deep space exploration, science and technology". The LROC is managed at Arizona State University in Tempe.

John Keller, who is one of the authors of the study and is a Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project scientist at NASA's Goodard Space Flight Centre said in a statement that it was brilliant how data from 50 years back were combined to advance the understanding of the Moon.


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