Additionally, "Establishing a new network of seismometers on the lunar surface should be a priority for human exploration of the Moon, both to learn more about the Moon's interior and to determine how much of a hazard moonquakes present", said co-author Renee Weber, a planetary seismologist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Unlike the flexible skin on a grape, the Moon's surface crust is brittle, so it breaks as the Moon shrinks, forming "thrust faults" where one section of crust is pushed up over a neighboring part.
Now, scientists have used images NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and seismic data from the Apollo missions, finding that the moon's shrinkage is also producing moonquakes around these thrust faults.
Resembling stair-shaped cliffs, the fault scarps are tens of metres high and extend for several kilometres.
We've known that the moon shudders since four seismometers were placed on its surface during the latter stages of the Apollo program. On Earth, the quakes would have ranged in magnitude from about 2 to 5.
While the theory remains just a theory until scientists are able to conduct more detailed study on the moon, the researchers made certain that the lineup of quakes and faults was not due to coincidence, running 10,000 seismic event simulations in an effort to reproduce the pattern and coming up with just a 1 percent chance the lineups had been random. This was close enough for the team to conclude that the faults likely caused the quakes.
This is where additional tidal stress from Earth's gravity causes a peak in the total pressure on the Moon's crust - making slippage along the faults more likely.
During the study, researchers analyzed 28 moonquakes from 1969 to 1977 and found that eight of these quakes were the result of pure tectonic activities.
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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. "I think it is very handsome that, 50 years after Apollo, the Artemis program will carry the next man and the first woman to the moon". Combined with evidence of dust and boulders moving near these faults, the researchers conclude that the Moon is tectonically active. 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.
"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", said Nicholas Schmerr in a statement, study author and assistant professor of geology at the University of Maryland.
Since 2009, the LRO mission identified more than 3,500 thrust faults on the moon.
The announcement comes about six weeks after US Vice President Mike Pence called for an accelerated program to return humans to the lunar surface for the first time since the last Apollo lunar landing in 1972.
"For me, these findings emphasize that we need to go back to the moon".
The increased funding request, announced by President Donald Trump on Twitter, comes almost two months after Vice President Mike Pence declared the objective of shortening by four years NASA's previous timeline for putting astronauts back on the moon for the first time since 1972.
The discovery of young faults less than 50 million years old by the LSO's camera in 2010 has been interpreted as evidence of lunar tectonic activity. "This provides some very promising low-hanging fruit for science on a future mission to the moon".