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NASA tracks the origins of Apollo's mysterious moonquakes

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It has been almost 50 years since people set foot on the moon and we are still learning new information.


There has been a lot of buzz about the moon lately, and for good reason. The 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the first space flight to land people on the moon, comes up in July. While it is quite commonly known, you may not be aware of what the mission's seismic experiment found: moonquakes.

NASA's Apollo mission had seismometers in four locations that registered lunar eclipses between 1969 and 1977, but the epicenter could not be identified. Researchers have now developed an algorithm that provides much more accurate estimates of epicenter sites. The team published their results in May in the Nature Geoscience Journal.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter discovered this prominent misprint on the moon.

NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University / Smithsonian

Researchers discovered young traction forces on the lunar surface that they attributed to "recent" tectonic activity, but it could not be determined how recently, the study says.

NASA knows that the moon slowly shrinks when its inner cool, the surface wrinkles like a raisin. The crust is fragile, so it forms these exciting printing errors.

"Our analysis provides the first evidence that these errors are still active and likely to produce lunar calves today, as the moon continues to gradually cool and shrink," said Thomas Watters of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Watters is the lead author of the mooncake study.

The study took a closer look at 28 monthly evenings and found that 8 of them were within 30 kilometers of errors discovered in NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. This means that the shakes were probably attributable to the nearby faults.

The study concluded that the approach of lunar calves to errors in combination with the disturbance of material on the lunar surface near the errors indicates that the moon is "tectonic active".

Scientists would love to place new seismometers on the moon. Study co-authors and NASA's planetary seismologist Renee Weber say this should be a priority for human exploration, "both to learn more about the moon's interior and to determine how much of a lunar calf exists."

With NASA eyeing 2024 for a manned mission to the moon, scientists can only get their chance.

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