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MIT-Led Mission Reveals the Moon's Battered Crust Is Riddled With Cracks

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the batter-the-crust-and-bake-for-4-billion-years dept.

Moon 39

SternisheFan sends this quote from the Boston Globe: "The moon's battered crust is riddled with deep fractures that may extend miles underground, according to the first findings from two NASA spacecraft orbiting Earth's nearest neighbor. The results of the mission, led by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist, surprised researchers, who said it will provide new insight into the evolution of the early solar system, and even help inform the search for life on Mars. Announced Wednesday, the discoveries are also a reminder that the familiar moon still holds secrets four decades after NASA ended its manned missions there. 'We have known that the moon's crust and other planetary crusts have been bombarded by impacts, but none of us could have predicted just how cracked the lunar crust is,' said Maria Zuber, the MIT geoscientist who led the mission, called GRAIL." Here are the abstracts from the three studies published in Science.

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Then adjust the heat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42198259)

I find that's what causes my batter to crack.

Like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42198289)

...riddled with cracks...

Like John McAfee's leathery face...

Re:Like... (1)

fche (36607) | about 2 years ago | (#42198321)

... and chairs at a geek conference

No plate tectonics. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42198341)

Without plate tectonics, the fact that the moon is riddled with cracks as it cooled is hardly surprising. The pounding it took during the late heavy bombardment probably didn't help either.

Re:No plate tectonics. (3, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#42198435)

I think it cooled before (or as) it was tidally locked to Earth. So the cracks could be remnants of tidal forces, not cooling. Not that the difference is important, but it may help for learning history of plants/moons.

Still Tidally locked (1, Interesting)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | about 2 years ago | (#42200203)

And if some believe the Moon was larger at some time earlier, it fits my theory that it was not due to a “giant impact" but instead moved into the tidal lock pattern, which caused internal heating of the moon, and some shinkage internally, but the crust was already cooled and stiff. When you have a relatively stiff outer core, but the internal core is cooked and can shrink, the outer core will want to settle inward, but due to its already stiff composition, it can't just settle in. It will crack. The real question is: What caused it to get close enough to the Earth to get trapped in orbit around the Earth? Was it some other event past Mars? Or was it tugged into place by Martians? Note that the Moon is really a small planet. Is Mercury and Venus earlier moons of Earth that were discarded due to inapplcable usage as the Earth was cooked via tidal lock? Is Earth really an assembled planet? It is the only one in this star system that has plentiful water at the proper distance from the star to support plentiful life. You may just be part of a herd to be harvested some day. You are the only bipedal Earth lifeforms that can be convinced to board a spaceship because you believe that is the proper survival stratgey when the volcanism of Earth starts to make survival on Earth questionable.. But if you are really part of a herd, and the spaceships come to rescue you, the odds are good that the aliens are not really here to help you survive. The odds are good that they are here to harvest the herd.

Re:Still Tidally locked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42201019)

Dude, man. Share.

They're not cracks... (1)

qbitslayer (2567421) | about 2 years ago | (#42200233)

...they are underground chambers prepared by the alien overlords who have been watching us for millions of years. They'll be making their move on December 21, 2012 to mark the end of an era predicted by Mayan astronomers. Right before the end of the world, the aliens will scoop up their followers in a big rapture. They will hide them and feed them in the underground chambers of the moon away from the chaos on earth. Then the big Yahweh chief of all aliens will make his apparition, as written. He, he.

Re:They're not cracks... (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#42201775)

The end of the Mayan calendar is as meaninful as the end of the 2-digit year or overflow of UNIX time. It's a prediction of the Earth ending like computer guys in the 1960s predicted the end of the world in 1999 when they picked 2-digit years that assume a preceding 19xx. Oh, it wasn't a prediction, but was lack of proper foresight? But that would never happen to the Mayans who never lived to see their calendar run out.

Re:They're not cracks... (3, Interesting)

Lithdren (605362) | about 2 years ago | (#42206041)

The parent is of course, insane, but im afrade you're also inaccurate.

Dec 21st 2012 is the end of the 13th baktun and the beginning of the 14th baktun. This is important to the Mayans as they believed that we live in the 4th itteration of the planet earth. The first 3 failed, for various reasons, the longest being the third, which lasted 13 baktuns. The coming of the 14th baktun is important to them because it means this world will now be the longest running. Previous worlds were not well suited to life, and humans didn't appear untill this particular version. It's a sign that this world is good, pure, and running well. Makes me laugh every time I read something about the end of the world, they couldn't be further from the truth.

Re:No plate tectonics. (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 2 years ago | (#42200523)

Learning/confirming that history would also serve as a "cheap" testing ground for unmanned missions to explore cracks on more distant surfaces such as Mars and Europa.

Re:No plate tectonics. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42200535)

Not likely if the current understanding of how the moon formed ( big splat theory) is not overturned. The moon is not currently tidally locked, it is still receding due to transfer of earths' angular momentum, and very much subject to body tides. The body tides would have been orders of magnitude stronger earlier in its life, hence possible mechanism for the cracking

Re:No plate tectonics. (2)

burning-toast (925667) | about 2 years ago | (#42201435)

Tidally locked means that the same side of the moon is always facing earth, not that it is locked a specific distance from the earth. We always only see one side of the planet.

If the earth were tidally locked with the sun we would always have one side of the earth facing the sun. Our day and year would be the same duration.

The tides on the moon would be from the sun and not from earth. The moon is not spinning relative to the earth, but it is still spinning relative to the sun.

- Toast

Re:No plate tectonics. (1)

OolimPhon (1120895) | about 2 years ago | (#42205255)

If the earth were tidally locked with the sun we would always have one side of the earth facing the sun. Our day and year would be the same duration.

Really? If the same side of the Earth always faces the sun, does that not mean that the day never ends? Whereas the year is still the time the Earth takes to complete one orbit?

Re:No plate tectonics. (1)

rwise2112 (648849) | about 2 years ago | (#42207069)

Really? If the same side of the Earth always faces the sun, does that not mean that the day never ends? Whereas the year is still the time the Earth takes to complete one orbit?

Depends on your definition of day - his refers to one rotation about the Earth's axis, which is not realated to the length of the day-night cycle. See Day [wikipedia.org] for the various definitions.

Re:No plate tectonics. (1)

burning-toast (925667) | about 2 years ago | (#42212515)

This was exactly the definition I was going with... one rotation around the body's rotational axis. However, my actual major typo was to refer to the moon as a planet:

the same side of the moon is always facing earth, not that it is locked a specific distance from the earth. We always only see one side of the planet.

Oops!

- Toast

Re:No plate tectonics. (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#42207279)

Tidally locked means that the same side of the moon is always facing earth, not that it is locked a specific distance from the earth. We always only see one side of the planet.

Yes, but that implies a fixed distance, since if the distance changes, suddenly you have a slow rotation relative to the central body that has to be "re-locked". And Moon is drifting away, isn't it? Additionally, if the orbit is elliptical, you still have changes in stress forces acting upon the lunar body, don't you? (Not to mention libration.)

Re:No plate tectonics. (1)

burning-toast (925667) | about 2 years ago | (#42212607)

You are right to an extent. The moon is tidally locked with the earth. However, the Earth is not tidally locked to the moon (yet). There is no "suddenly" about this. Were the moon not tidally locked then it would freely rotate about its own axis as it moved away from us; and as the rotational speed got out of whack from the orbital speed we would get to see more than just the one side... as you were saying. However, what is actually happening is the Moon is slowing Earth's rotational speed towards tidally locking with the moon, and the distance to the moon is still increasing towards equilibrium with that. But while it is moving away from us its own rotational speed is decelerating to maintain its own tidal lock. The minute differences between the rates that these things happen at is "liberation" (where we get to see small slivers of the moon we wouldn't normally get to see) but the physics of it fight to keep the two bodies "locked". Once both bodies rotate around their own axis in the same amount of time it takes for them to rotate around each other at that point the distance will be relatively static between them (the moon doesn't have enough energy for escape velocity from our gravity well). IIRC this would be considered orbital resonance.

Eventually the earth and the moon will lock with each other, and always face each other from the same sides, but that is a really long way off from now. For now, only the moon is tidally locked with Earth, eventually that will change to be true in the reverse as well. The estimates I've seen around and about indicate that this will likely take around 50 billion years, so it's mostly academic since the sun will die long before that (and that is also longer than the current age of the universe).

- Toast

Re:No plate tectonics. (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#42235767)

The minute differences between the rates that these things happen at is "liberation" (where we get to see small slivers of the moon we wouldn't normally get to see)

No, it's not. Libration (note the spelling) implies a non-circular orbit and the matching between the mean angular velocity of Moon's rotation and the mean angular velocity of Moon's radius vector. The immediate velocities are perforce mismatched, since you can't slow down Moon's rotation by a significant percentage and speed it up again during a single lunar cycle The tidal forces can only match mean velocities. This has nothing to do with the continuous tidal re-locking.

The mission let kids select lunar pictures (3, Informative)

sighted (851500) | about 2 years ago | (#42198345)

One of the interesting parts of this mission is MoonKAM [ucsd.edu] , which let grade school and middle school kids select targets on the lunar surface for the orbiters' cameras to inspect. It returned some pretty interesting (if low-res) images until a solar flare recently took the imaging system down. If you're interested, there's some more info about GRAIL: today's announcement from NASA [nasa.gov] , and a public lecture [nasa.gov] tomorrow with a live feed.

This is obvious... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42198573)

While cheese can keep for a long time if refrigerated properly,
the SPACE environment is too dry for its extended stay.

What do you expect from a piece of Swiss cheese (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 2 years ago | (#42198603)

of several billion years.

Re:What do you expect from a piece of Swiss cheese (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 2 years ago | (#42198919)

I thought it was green cheese. (I actually don't know what green cheese is.)

Re:What do you expect from a piece of Swiss cheese (3, Informative)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 2 years ago | (#42198959)

Green cheese refers to fresh cheese (one that has not completely dried out). With cracks and battered crust, it apparently is not made of green cheese.

Re:What do you expect from a piece of Swiss cheese (2)

knarf (34928) | about 2 years ago | (#42202223)

Whoa there, you seem to have gotten your cheese colours mixed up. There's plenty of real green cheeses [wikipedia.org] which are fully capable of developing cracks in their crust. Take for instance Schabziger [wikipedia.org] , a Swiss green cheese which is as hard as a rock and therefore usually eaten grated.

Okay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42198667)

Yes, but what does it taste like?

Mmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42199213)

Battered crust. <drools/>

Gung ho! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42199689)

Gonna mine that bad boy for bitcoins!!

Moon riddled with cracks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42199869)

I have always suspected the earth too was cracked very deeply by severe impacts
and the tectonic plates are mere aftermaths of a huge asteroid collision on the opposite side of where Pangia once was.
That drove the continents apart. Mind you it would appear as thermally derived to the layman today.
But what started it? a big slam! Imagine all the oceans falling into the miles-deep fractures.
That would spell the end to the dinosaurs and most of life that could not tolerate the clouds formed
by the heat dispersed. Think Venus-like atmosphere. The moon has been hit hard too no doubt.
And shows evidence in it's craters that are hard to cover up. Not like here on our good planet earth.

Re:Moon riddled with cracks (1)

runeghost (2509522) | about 2 years ago | (#42199993)

I find your ideas intriguing and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:Moon riddled with cracks (1)

MickLinux (579158) | about 2 years ago | (#42200275)

The Siberian flats formed opposite Tierra Del Fuego. But considering that the Deccan flats formed opposite chixlub, the current theory has people guessing that there might have been an asteroid strike at Tierra Del Fuego.

However, the Smithsonian's lead paleoarchaeologist looked for evidence, and failed to find it. So that one is still out.

That said, I think there nonetheless WAS an asteroid strike there, travelling eastward, that formed both the Scotia Plate, and the African Karoo, which happens to have been directly above the Scotia Plate, and oriented the same, an. the same shape and size, and formed largely of impermiable Kimberlites [that is, mantle material].

Re:Moon riddled with cracks (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42200349)

Except that Pangaea was not the only super-continent, there have been several over the geological history we've worked out, and hints that they go further back before that too. It would seem to be an odd coincidence that an asteroid his Earth shortly after every super-continent was formed leading to another break up, as opposed to the same forces that created the continent being able to break it up again..

So, just to be clear... (1)

Tarlus (1000874) | about 2 years ago | (#42200139)

A "battered crust" is a rocky outer layer pelted by meteorites, and not the delicious outer layer of a corndog.

Go Figure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42201107)

Every good moon has a huge crack....

Re:Go Figure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42202333)

Maybe we can find one on Uranus too.

Really??? (1)

micber (2778079) | about 2 years ago | (#42202601)

So the "moon" has a "crack".....anyone? Really? Guess it's just me....

Battered Crust (1)

Westwood0720 (2688917) | about 2 years ago | (#42202783)

Suddenly I have a desire to have a croissant. =[

Doomsday Scenario (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42203147)

So of all the doomsday scenarios that have been propagated, the one that got it closest was from "Thundarr the Barbarian"? Who'da thunk it...

Future moon walkers had better be careful (1)

kazekirifx (2647275) | about 2 years ago | (#42211415)

Accidentally bounce yourself into a miles-long crack and you'll be treated to a slow and agonizing fall to the depths of the moon before your oxygen tank is depleted.
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