Like a Raisin: Study Finds Earth’s Shrinking Moon is Causing Quakes

SHRIVELLING The Moon is wrinkling like a raisin as its core shrinks

The scarps form when one section of the Moon's crust (left-pointing arrows) is pushed up over an adjacent section (right-pointing arrows) as the Moon's interior cools and shrinks. As the Moon cools, it shrinks - and the Moon's diameter has shrunk approximately 150 feet over the past several hundred million years, according to NASA.

It has been almost 50 years since NASA's Apollo program sent the first men to the moon, but with NASA's new focus on putting a woman on the moon, it is only fitting that the mission bear Apollo's twin sister's name, Artemis.

The lines of the faults appear crisp, says Thomas Watters, a senior scientist at the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies in Washington, DC, who led the team, and they cut across craters that are thought to be less than 50 million years old, so they must be relatively recent.

NASA also is trying to evolve its work culture, said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations for the space agency. If they had been on Earth, the quakes would have registered between a 2 and a 5 on the Moment Magnitude scale, according to the researchers. Scientists trying to reconstruct the Moon's origin wonder whether the same happened to the Moon, or if instead it was only partially molten, perhaps with a magma ocean over a more slowly heating deep interior. Other events such as meteorite impacts can produce quakes, but those would produce different seismic signatures. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) took more than 3,500 images of fault scarps and in some of these landslides or boulders can be seen at the bottom of bright patches on the slopes of fault scarps or nearby terrain. 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.

'And if we look at the history of moon landings, it was test pilots from the 1960s and 1970s, fighter pilots, and there were no opportunities for women back then.

The researchers say that the Moon does not have any tectonic plates which can cause an quake, but it has been reporting several tectonic activities due to the gradual cooling down of the satellite's interior. In addition to being the goddess of the moon, Artemis was also the goddess of the hunt, with Orion her hunting companion.

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These bright patches indicate they have been freshly exposed to space as would occur following a moonquake.

The only reduction in funding is for the Lunar Gateway, the station in lunar orbit that will act as a staging point for missions to the surface.

It would also get $1.6 billion in new funding for NASA under a fiscal 2020 budget amendment proposed by the Trump administration, which is pushing to accelerate the lunar mission to 2024 - four years ahead of schedule.

The moon is not the solar system's only object shrinking with age.

This research was funded by NASA's LRO project, with additional support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

The VP called on NASA to "reignite the spark of urgency" for space exploration and make it a priority to set "bold goals" and stay on schedule. Image credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University / Smithsonian Institution.

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