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Mysterious moon movements tracked to Apollo unit still on moon

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Spots Rocket Impact Site on Moon (NASA/Released)
September 12, 2023

A new study of the moon has discovered that mysterious moonquakes appear to be coming from the Apollo 17 lander.

A new study published last week in the “Journal of Geophysical Research – Planets” noted, “Impulsive moonquakes are not due to natural processes, but are vibrations generated from the lunar module descent vehicle left by the astronauts in 1972.”

According to IFL Science, data was collected between October 1976 and May 1977 based on three seismometers that were placed on the surface of the moon by astronauts in the 1970s. By examining the data provided by the seismometers, scientists have concluded that repeating morning tremors are not natural on the moon but are instead caused by the Apollo 17 lunar lander base.

Based on the research, the area around the Apollo 17 lander expands and vibrates each time it is heated by the sun in the morning, causing repeated moonquakes every afternoon as the moon’s surface cools.

“Every lunar morning when the sun hits the lander, it starts popping off,” Allen Husker, who worked on the study and is a Caltech research professor of geophysics, said. “Every five to six minutes, another one, over a period of five to seven earth hours. They were incredibly regular and repeating.”

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According to IFL Science, other natural moonquakes occur regularly when the gravity of the Earth results in tidal stresses on the moon, which causes them to crack and rub together. Additionally, the seismographs recorded moonquakes that scientists believe were caused by meteorites crashing onto the moon’s surface.

“It’s important to know as much as we can from the existing data so we can design experiments and missions to answer the right questions,” Husker said. “The Moon is the only planetary body other than the Earth to have had more than one seismometer on it at a time. It gives us the only opportunity to thoroughly study another body.”

Husker said additional seismic research on the moon should allow scientists to be able to “map out the subsurface cratering and to look for deposits.” He noted that craters near the moon’s South Pole never receive sunlight and are “permanently shadowed.”

“If we could put up a few seismometers there, we could look for water ice that may be trapped in the subsurface,” he said. “Seismic waves travel slower through water.”