Earth’s moon is shrinking and quaking, study says

Earth’s moon is shrinking and quaking, study says

By comparing lunar orbital imagery from NASA with seismic readings obtained almost half a century ago from equipment left on the moon by the Apollo missions, researchers believe they've figured out what's behind a pattern of mysterious moonquakes that have frustrated scientists for decades, seemingly originating from the upper few miles of the moon's crust: our neighboring satellite, believed to be a cold lifeless rock, is actually geologically alive, just like Earth.

The moon wrinkles as its interior cools and shrinks - much as a grape does as it dries to become a raisin.

The Apollo astronauts first began measuring seismic activity on the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s, finding the vast majority were occurred deep in the body's interior while a smaller number were on its surface.

"For me, these findings emphasize that we need to go back to the moon", said researcher Nicholas Schmerr of the University of Maryland.

"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.

As the Moon cools on the inside, the Moon's outside "wrinkles" and "shrivels" like a dehydrated grape when it turns into a raisin. The slow shrinking and cooling over time, according to the new research, has created the large cliffs and faults - formed as the crust is pushed up and over another chunk of crust nearby.

Bridenstine said the mission was named Artemis after the Greek mythological goddess of the Moon and twin sister to Apollo, namesake of the program that sent 12 American astronauts to the Moon between 1969 and 1972.

During the eight years the five Apollo seismometers functioned, they picked up 28 near-surface moonquakes measuring the Earth equivalent of between a 2 and 5 on the Moment Magnitude scale.

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This means that the Apollo seismometers recorded the moon shrinking, the researchers said.

A view of the Taurus-Littrow valley taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft.

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

As a result, researchers were able to "tentatively attribute" the recorded quakes to the faults.

Watters and his team also looked carefully at data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and identified areas near the faults that look like they've been recently disturbed - boulders that have rolled in the near past, or evidence of landslides. This is where additional tidal stress from Earth's gravity causes a peak in the total stress on the moon's crust, making slippage along the thrust faults more likely.

Those that appear brighter indicate freshly exposed rock, suggesting an event like a "moonquake". (Prior to Pence's announcement, the agency had been working toward a late-2020s crewed lunar landing.) This pioneering mission will help lead to a long-term, sustainable human presence on the moon, NASA officials have said. "We learned a lot from the Apollo missions, but they really only scratched the surface".

Lunar science: $90 million to enable increased robotic exploration of the moon's polar regions in advance of a human mission. The college's 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $175 million.

In a teleconference with reporters on Monday evening, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said the budget amendment was a "down payment" on what will be needed in future years to fund the program.

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