(ORDO NEWS) — According to the latest data, the landing stage of the space module of the Apollo 17 mission left on the Moon had an unexpected impact on the Earth’s natural satellite, causing moonquakes.
The study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets on September 5, reveals a previously unknown aspect of the Moon’s seismic activity. For this purpose, data from the Apollo missions, modern computer algorithms and seismometers installed in the immediate vicinity of the landing stage were used.
According to the study, significant changes in temperature on the lunar surface – from -133 degrees Celsius in shaded areas to +121 degrees Celsius in areas under the sun’s rays – cause the lander structure to expand and contract. These physical changes result in impacts on the lunar surface and create the observed moonquakes.
Interestingly, these moonquakes, although caused by the landing stage, turned out to be harmless and likely would not have been noticed by a person on the Moon. However, this discovery plays an important role for future lunar exploration missions.
The US lunar exploration program Artemis aims to establish a permanent base on the Moon, and understanding the nature of moonquakes is a key element to ensuring the safety and sustainability of such a base. As scientists note, knowledge about moonquakes will help determine the required strength of structures and solve complex engineering problems.
The Apollo 17 mission was special because the lander left on the Moon in 1972 was equipped with seismometers capable of detecting moonquakes, including those caused by thermal changes on the moon‘s surface.
One of the lead researchers on this work, Francesco Civilini, explains: “We have developed algorithms that precisely time these waves, measure the strength of the seismic signals and determine the direction of the source of moonquakes.”
New data analysis has revealed a new type of moonquakes called impulsive thermal moonquakes, which are associated with heating and cooling of the module’s landing stage. These lunar tremors occur primarily in the morning, when solar activity is most intense, and can last for several hours.
According to scientists, this phenomenon is significantly different from other lunar shaking caused by the surface’s natural reactions to solar activity. It is noted that future missions to the Moon will be able to expand our understanding of this phenomenon.
In addition to thermal moonquakes, the Moon sometimes experiences deeper, shorter tremors, likely caused by meteorite impacts . But unlike the Earth, where earthquakes are associated with the movement of tectonic plates, there are no such processes on the Moon.
The study allows us to draw a conclusion about the “inner life” of the Moon, which turns out to be more active and dynamic than expected. Scientists are also currently monitoring India‘s Chandrayaan-3 mission, which is also equipped with seismometers and could bring unique new data on lunar shaking.
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