Chandrayaan-3 detects a moonquake

Indian probe Chandrayaan-3, which landed on the lunar south pole on August 23rd, has detected a moonquake after decades
Una representación del aterrizador indio Vikram con el rover Pragyan, que juntos forman la sonda Chandrayaan-3

Indian lunar probe Chandrayaan-3 may have just detected the first evidence of a “moonquake” since the ’70s. Lunar seismometer instrument (ILSA) on board to the Vikram lander, detected seismic activity on the surface of the Moon on August 26.

Vikram landed on the lunar south pole on August 23 as part of the Chandrayaan-3 mission, India’s first mission to the lunar surface. If confirmed, the lunar earthquake, detected along with other activities, including movements of the Indian rover Pragyan, would provide scientists with a rare glimpse into the mysterious depths of the Moon.

First moonquake in 50 years

The lander “recorded an event that appears to be natural on August 26, 2023” wrote the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on X, formerly Twitter. “The source of the event is under investigation”. Apollo lunar missions between 1969 and 1977 first detected seismic activity on the Moon, revealing a complex geological structure hidden deep within.

In recent years, advanced analytical tools and computer models have allowed scientists to sift through data collected from Apollo and other missions. Investigations have helped build a clearer picture of the Moon’s enigmatic interior. A NASA study from 2011 (ref.) revealed that the Moon’s core, much like Earth‘s, was likely composed of molten iron.

In May 2023, researchers used gravitational field data to confirm this iron core hypothesis. The study’s results, published in Nature (ref.), suggest that patches of the Moon’s molten mantle may be separated from the rest. These iron clumps, floating on the surface, generate moonquake as they move.

Chandrayaan-3’s upcoming analyses

But Chandrayaan-3 ‘s moonquake is just the beginning of the Moon’s secrets. Planetary magnetic fields are generated within planets by the movement of electrically conductive and molten material. The Moon’s interior is non-magnetic and very different from Earth’s. Scientists believe its interior cooled rapidly and uniformly after its formation about 4.5 billion years ago. This means it lacks a strong magnetic field, and many scientists believe it never had one.

This is just one of the questions the Chandrayaan-3 rover could answer. Both the lander and rover are solar-powered and are currently in hibernation mode until the Moon emerges from its approximately 14-day night. When the Sun once again strikes the lunar south pole’s surface on September 22, both instruments will be ready to seek answers.”

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