Space Photos of the Week: The Shrinky, Wrinkly, Seismic Moon
To keep our personal and mortal concerns about aging in perspective, it helps to know we’re not alone. Turns out that the moon also shrinks and wrinkles as it gets older, just like the rest of us.
A new paper published this week reveals that there’s more going on with the moon, seismically speaking, than we thought. Earth has earthquakes, Mars has Marsquakes, and yes, the moon has moonquakes. Using data from seismometers placed on the lunar surface during several Apollo missions, along with contemporary observations, scientists have been able to locate regions on the moon where quakes are taking place. These aren’t tiny temblors either: They measure up to 5 on the Richter scale, and if you’ve been through an earthquake you know that’s enough shaking to send you diving under a table or desk.
See, during the formation of the solar system, as material clumped together, the Earth and moon became hot. They cooled down over the next billion years, and on the moon this drawn-out cool-down caused it to contract. Because the moon’s mantle is so brittle, the shrinking creates cracks and sets off quakes—geologic activity that many scientists didn’t think was still affecting our natural satellite. Those fault lines are even visible in photographs. (No cheese has been spotted yet.)
So while the moon might have a reputation for being an ashy, dormant, and lifeless orb, it’s actually shaking things up!
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