The Moon is cooling and shrinking. The Earth’s satellite has lost 50 metres in circumference over the last billion years, a phenomenon that causes moonquakes measuring up to five on the Richter scale.
Our planet is not the only heavenly body prone to quakes. Just like the Earth, the Moon is regularly shaken by tremors, as reported BFMTV. The quakes are caused by the cooling of the Moon’s interior, a phenomenon that results in it gradually shrinking.
According to a study conducted by NASA, the Earth’s only satellite has lost nearly 50 metres in circumference over the last billion years.
“You've heard of earthquakes,” tweeted NASA. “But what about moonquakes? Like a wrinkled grape drying out to a raisin, the Moon is shrinking as its interior cools, causing wrinkles or faults to form on its brittle surface. When enough stress builds, it releases the quakes.”
You've heard of earthquakes. But what about moonquakes? Like a wrinkled grape drying out to a raisin, the Moon is shrinking as its interior cools causing wrinkles or faults to form on its brittle surface. When enough stress builds, it releases the quakes: https://t.co/H3ixgywT1p pic.twitter.com/OxNrVveAQk— NASA (@NASA) May 13, 2019
Like seismic faults on the Earth, lunar faults are genuine time bombs. When the inflexible lunar crust breaks as a result of cooling, the resulting faults press up against each other to trigger moonquakes.
Five on the Richter scale
“Our analysis gives the first evidence that these faults are still active and likely producing moonquakes today as the Moon continues to gradually cool and shrink,” the study’s lead author, Thomas Watters, told Nature Geoscience.
In attempting to gauge the power of the tremors, NASA scientists analysed data from the seismometers placed on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11, 12, 14 and 15 missions, conducted between 1969 and 977. They discovered that moonquakes can measure five on the Richter scale, an intensity not far below that of earthquakes capable of causing significant damage to old buildings.
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