The Moon’s Surface Still Suffers Changes After Geological Activity From Billions of Years Ago

The general belief regarding the Moon is that the natural satellite is a cold and dead piece of rock, and mostly it is. Still, new research from Brown University says there is proof of recent tectonic activity on the Moon’s surface.

The team of scientists did not need to launch a new lunar spacecraft or send seismic sensors on the Moon, because NASA has already done that. Rather, they examined images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to observe the frequency of exposed bedrocks.

Recent Geological Activity on the Moon

Most of the satellite’s surface is coated in lunar regolith, and researchers believe this material accumulates in a rather quick manner on a geological scale. The LRO’s Diviner tool calculates the surface temperature across the Moon, which can establish the surface composition. Overall, regolith tends to be a lot colder than regions of exposed bedrocks.

The team discovered more than 500 patches of exposed bedrock on narrow ridges, most of which were on the margins of lunar maria. Those are the large dark areas on the Moon’s surface, and they don’t seem to be associated with volcanic activity in the satellite’s young times.

Previously, scientists have said that bedrock on the Moon is evidence of ancient lava flows. Indeed, NASA’s GRAIL mission in 2014 fond cracks in the Moon’s surface where magma could have once flowed up. Examining the exposed bedrock areas, the team discovered they matched with the GRAIL cracks.

 

The warmer spots (upper left) depict areas with exposed bedrock. [Image: LRO]
Study co-author Peter Schultz stated that the association is almost perfect, which implies that there is some recent geological activity on the Moon. The research calls this an Active Nearside Tectonic System, or ANTS.

The team of researchers said that the ANTS began billion of years ago after a massive impact on the Moon’s surface. The energy from that strike may still be causing small changes in the crust, pushing up segments of the bedrock at a faster pace than they can be covered with regolith. These changes are reportedly minor, but they are significant on a planetoid with no other naturally transpiring movement.

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