NASA Scientists Find Earth’s Moon is Shrinking

The Moon is officially shrinking.

Just like Earth has its Earthquakes, our satellite has its ‘moonquakes’.

Now, scientists from NASA have discovered that these so-called moonquakes are actually causing the moon to shrink.

The lunar quakes are the product of it being tectonically active and they are forcing the moon to contract.

The Moon is shrinking

This prominent thrust fault is one of thousands discovered on the moon by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Image Credit: Credit: LROC NAC frame M190844037LR; NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University/Smithsonian.
This prominent thrust fault is one of thousands discovered on the moon by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Image Credit: Credit: LROC NAC frame M190844037LR; NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University/Smithsonian.

Researchers from NASA have discovered that the moon’s interior is cooling down which is producing the surface to contract. As its delicate surface is cracking, it is producing cliffs called scarps.

At around ten yards high, and stretching out several miles across, these strange formations are reminiscent of giant stairways on the moon.

Apollo Mission data is helping

But they are not something new.

In fact, these features were discovered by Apollo Mission astronauts more than 50 years ago, and since then, scientists have found they continue to form.

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As explained by NASA, astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt had to zig-zag their lunar rover up and over the cliff face of the Lee-Lincoln fault scarp during the Apollo 17 mission that landed in the Taurus-Littrow valley in 1972.

The Taurus-Littrow valley is the location of the Apollo 17 landing site (asterisk). Cutting across the valley, just above the landing site, is the Lee-Lincoln fault scarp. Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University/Smithsonian
The Taurus-Littrow valley is the location of the Apollo 17 landing site (asterisk). Cutting across the valley, just above the landing site, is the Lee-Lincoln fault scarp. Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University/Smithsonian.

Using images obtained by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), NASA scientists were able to identify new formations.

“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,” said Thomas Watters, a senior scientist in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

“Some of these quakes can be fairly strong, around five on the Richter scale.”

Furthermore, scientists say that as many as eight of the twenty-eight scraps that have been recorded from 1969 to 1977 likely are the result of lunar tectonic activity.

It has previously been suggested that the moon’s scars may have been the result of asteroid impacts or from processes within the moon’s interior, but experts say that thee are more likely to have formed from genuine tectonic activity.

The study, published in Nature Geoscience, analyzed data from four seismometers placed on the Moon by the Apollo astronauts using an algorithm, or mathematical program, developed to pinpoint quake locations detected by a sparse seismic network. The algorithm gave a better estimate of moonquake locations.

Source
NASA