Moon shrinking causes quakes


Since LRO has been photographing the lunar surface since 2009, the team would like to compare pictures of specific fault regions from different times to see if there is any evidence of recent moonquake activity.

By looking at the size and location of the tremors, the algorithm estimates the epicenter of the moonquakes.

"It's really remarkable to see how data from almost 50 years ago and from the [orbiter] 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 John Keller in a statement, study author and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

"We have found that a series of quakes from the 'Apollo'recordings have taken place very close to the fracture zones from the LRO shots", said Co-author Nicholas Schmerr, University of Maryland in College Park. If so, "the Apollo seismometers recorded the shrinking moon and the moon is still tectonically active", he said, calling the results "amazing".

The astronauts of the manned Apollo moon missions 12, 14, 15 and 16, four seismometers on the moon, the seismic activity on the moon have recorded had left. Researchers believe that these quakes would have measured between 2 and 5 in the "Moment Magnitude scale" if they had been on earth.

It turns out, that a large proportion of the quakes coincide with young fault scarps; a displacement of the land caused by a shortening, or contraction, of the crust. Instead, its brittle surface cracks as it shrinks, resulting in "thrust faults", or cliffs akin to stair steps, per CNN.

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. Scientists know the Moon is too cold and still to have plate tectonics, like Earth, which keeps our whole crust sliding around in giant, continent-sized pieces.

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It would also boost technologies to help the agency explore the lunar poles with robots ahead of a human mission, using solar energy as a propulsion source and converting ice found under the moon's crust into water. For example, bright patches of ground have been observed near faults, which appear to be patches of lunar regolith that have yet to be darkened by weathering and radiation.

"It (also) means that the moon has somehow managed to remain tectonically active after 4.51 billion years", Thomas Watters, lead author of the study, from the Smithsonian Institution, said in a statement.

Other LRO fault images show fresh tracks from boulder falls, suggesting that quakes sent these boulders rolling down their cliff slopes. Geologically, however, this is no time to call.

Prof Schmerr said: "For me, these findings emphasise we need to go back to the Moon".

"The work that they've done simply wasn't possible when the Apollo landings happened because we didn't have such high-resolution images of the moon, Professor Horner said. This provides some very promising low-hanging fruit for science on a future mission to the Moon". The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

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