The Moon is shrinking, and it is our fault

Bethan McKernan@mck_beth
Tuesday 22 September 2015 16:30
Science and Tech

Nasa's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has sent pictures back to Earth that show the effects our planet has on the Moon.

Scientists realised in 2010 that certain fractures and ridges on the Moon's surface are caused by the gravitational pull of the earth on our lunar companion, but a recent study in the journal Geology included the first high-resolution images of this phenomenon.

Now more than three quarters of the Moon's surface has been photographed, researchers have counted at least 3,200 'lobate thrust fault scarps' all over the satellite, mostly less than six miles long and tens of metres high.

The Moon is in a one-billion-year-old process of cooling down, and as the core gets colder, previously molten parts of its mantle solidify. The crust "wrinkles" when this happens, which causes its total area to shrink a little.

If it wasn't for the Earth, the cracks and ridges would form evenly.

But because of the gravitational pull of our orbit, around the Moon's equatorial region the ridges run north to south, and closer to the poles, are formed from east to west.

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