The daily ebb and flow of the ocean tides on Earth are a well-known consequence of our moon’s gravitational pull as it journey’s around our planet.
But it seems the Earth’s own gravitational pull that keeps the moon in orbit is having a far more serious impact on the rocky satellite – it is tearing its surface apart.
Nasa scientists have identified more than 3,200 cracks, each several miles long and dozens of feet deep, crisscrossing the moon’s surface.
Analysis of these faults, which are thought to be a result of the moon shrinking in size as its core cools, has revealed they are forming due to the gravitational tidal forces from Earth.
Dr Thomas Watters, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, said: ‘There is a pattern in the orientations of the thousands of faults.
‘It suggests something else is influencing their formation, something that’s also acting on a global scale – ‘massaging’ and realigning them.’
Scientists first noticed these faults, known as lobate scarps in 2010 when Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft spotted them littering the moon’s surface.
They initially thought the cooling and subsequent contracting of the liquid outer core was causing the solid crust above to buckle and crack.
This would result in a pattern of so-called thrust faults with no particular pattern in their orientation.
However, analysis of high-resolution images of almost three-quarters of the lunar surface from the spacecraft has revealed more than 3,000 more of the features.
Researchers found the faults appeared to have particular orientations which suggests they are forming under the influence of other forces.
They said changes in the gravitational pull on the moon as is moves around the Earth in its elliptical orbit would be sufficient to cause distinctive stress on the surface.
Dr Watters said when the tidal forces on the moon were superimposed on the global contraction caused by the cooling interior, the combined stresses produced cracks to form in distinct patterns.
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