Shaping the Moon

Shaping the Moon

Taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), this image reveals a lobate scarp (arrows) on the Moon’s surface. Scientists believe these small scarps or cliffs form as the lunar interior cools, causing the Moon to shrink and the crust to break. The terrain on one side is pushed upward, forming a fault scarp. 

Scientists using LROC imagery have discovered thousands of young lobate scarps. They are usually less than 10 kilometers (6 miles) long and only tens of meters high.

According to Thomas Watters, a scientist with the National Air and Space Museum’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, tidal forces caused by Earth’s gravitational pull have influenced the alignment of the faults.

Watters is lead author of the paper describing this research published in the October 2015 issue of the journal Geology.

  • WEB15172-2015

  • Copyright/Owner: Smithsonian Institution
  • For print or commercial use please see our permissions page.