Study finds Moon is shrinking

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Study finds Moon is shrinking

Postby abuali » 24 Aug 2010, 13:31


Photographs sent by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter suggest that the moon is decreasing in size by around 200 meters across its diameter, scientists say.

The high-resolution images show wrinkles all over the moon, some of which are several miles long and rise tens of meters above the dusty terrain.

Scientists say the moon was formed with a hot core which caused it to expand first and then contract as it cooled down, The Guardian reported.

Studying the recent photographs, Smithsonian Institution scientists believe the cooling process has not finished yet causing the planet compress and form the wrinkle-like features known as lobate scarps.

Led by Thomas Watters, the team identified fourteen lobate scarps as far apart as the lunar equator and near the poles.

Scientists say they could not be older than a billion years.

"Not only could they be indicating recent contraction of the moon, they may be indicating that the moon is still contracting," said Watters.

"Until now, we really had no evidence of cooling and the contraction of the moon that would go along with it. This isn't anything to worry about. The moon may be shrinking, but not by much. It's not going anywhere."

The new finding suggests that the moon still has a warm core and is geologically active.

"There's a general impression that the moon is geologically dead, that anything of significance that happened geologically up there happened billions of years ago,” Watters said.

“This population of young scarps indicates that really isn't the case."

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is planning to provide a detailed map of the moon's surface over the next three to four years.

"It will be very interesting to see the overall distribution of all lobate scarps and other telltale features, as more images of the lunar surface are returned," said planetary geologist at University College London Peter Grindrod.

"The extent and age of these features will help reveal whether there was a global period of contraction on the moon, and ultimately tell us more about how the moon formed and evolved."


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