Earth's moon is shrinking and quaking, study says

Shrinking Moon may be experiencing powerful quakes to this day

The moon may also still tectonically active. But 28 of those quakes were relatively shallow and powerful - one had a magnitude of 5.5, according to a NASA factsheet.

"Our goal here is to build a program that gets us to the moon as soon as possible", Bridenstine told reporters on a telephone conference call late on Monday. But the lunar faults, like Earth's own fault lines, are similar in that occur where pieces of the surface sometimes rub against each other, causing quakes that can reverberate throughout the planet.

Images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter showed that the moon has delicately shriveled as its interior has cooled over the eons, akin to a plump grape transforming into a smaller raisin.

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. He noted that in Greek mythology, Apollo had a twin sister named Artemis, who served as the goddess of the moon. Impact craters, another common lunar feature, can help geologists better date these "wrinkle ridges" and their importance in the moon's cooling and shrinking activity.

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

However, there are several significant challenges to overcome before the Artemis program-which is still in the early stages of development-will be ready put people on the moon, and some experts are concerned that NASA will not be able to meet the 2024 deadline, AFP reported.

"You don't often get to see active tectonics anywhere but Earth - so it's very exciting to think these faults may still be producing moonquakes". They can reach up to about 330 feet (100 meters) tall and extend for many miles. They calculated at what distance from the fault scarp the shaking would be strongest, and compared this distance to the re-calculated epicentres.


The study was published on Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

"We found that a number of the quakes recorded in the Apollo data happened very close to the faults seen in the LRO imagery", Schmerr said, noting that the LRO imagery also shows physical evidence of geologically recent fault movement, such as landslides and tumbled boulders. Weathering from solar and space radiation gradually darkens material on the lunar surface, so brighter areas indicate regions that are freshly exposed to space, as expected if a recent moonquake sent material sliding down a cliff.

This is more than a coincidence - the quakes were likely caused by slipping at these fracture points, said the study's lead author Tom Watters of the Smithsonian Institution.

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.

"For me, these findings emphasize that we need to go back to the moon", Schmerr said.

NASA still isn't ready to disclose a total cost estimate for the moon-landing effort, which Bridenstine today said is called Artemis.

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