NASA pictures support biblical origin for Moon
Published: 2 September 2010 (GMT+10)
This is the pre-publication version which was subsequently revised to appear in Creation 33(2):50–52.
Figure 1. Location of lobate scarps on Moon. Black dots = previously known scarps. White dots = scarps newly detected in LRO images (from ref. 2, p. 938).
New images from one of NASA’s spacecraft have revealed small scarps1 all over the moon, indicating that it’s not cold and dead as has been conventionally believed.2 The research team led by planetary geologist Dr Thomas Watters of the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, published its findings in Science journal. 3
The scarps are relatively small, which explains why they have escaped detection until the high-resolution images now available from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) revealed their existence. They are curved like a lobe, with the largest being about 100 metres high and several kilometres long. Most however are only about 10 metres high and much shorter.
The first lobe-shaped scarps on the moon were discovered in the early 1970s from photographs from the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions, but those photos only covered the area near the lunar equator. Watters’ team has discovered 14 more. Seven of these are toward the lunar poles, which is good evidence that the scarps are a global feature (figure 1).
The team suggests that the entire crust of the moon has contracted creating thrust faults that pushed up localized parts of the surface (figure 2). They proposed that the most likely driving force for the crustal contraction is cooling of the moon’s interior. On a global scale the contraction is relatively small: only about 100 meters along a moon radius of around 3,500 km.
This discovery has significant implications for ideas about the moon’s origin and history. It consistent with the biblical account but contradicts long-held evolutionary beliefs, which is why it is so surprising in conventional circles.
Figure 2. A thrust fault develops when the crust of the moon is compressed. The fault pushes one part of the surface above the rest, creating a steep slope, or scarp (from ref. 3.)
Current naturalistic thinking has the moon forming some 4.5 billion years ago and consisting of an ocean of lava initially, molten likely over its entire radius. With time the lava solidified and the moon continued to cool until all the heat sources dissipated long ago. For the past 3 billion years the moon is believed to have been cold and dead.
However, these tiny scarps mean that the moon has been cooling only recently and is much more dynamic than believed. Their presence directly challenges conventional thinking on the naturalistic origin for the moon, especially its supposed multi-billion-year age.
How did the team determine that the scarps are young? According to NASA:
“The team believes they [the scarps] are among the freshest features on the moon, in part because they cut across small craters. Since the moon is constantly bombarded by meteors, features like small craters (those less than about 1,200 feet [350 m] across) are likely to be young because they are quickly destroyed by other impacts and don’t last long. So, if a small crater has been disrupted by a scarp, the scarp formed after the crater and is even younger. Even more compelling evidence is that large craters, which are likely to be old, don’t appear on top any of the scarps, and the scarps look crisp and relatively undegraded.”4 (See figure 3.)
Figure 3. A fault scarp has cut across and deformed several small impact craters (arrows). The fault has carried material up and over the craters, burying parts of their floors and rims. About half of the rim and floor of a 20-m crater (box) has been covered. Small craters are quickly destroyed by newer impacts, so the fault (which is later) is relatively young (from ref. 3).
Image NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University/Smithsonian
Scarps point to youth
Based on this evidence, the team, wearing their long-age evolutionary glasses, estimated that these scarps cannot be older than a billion years but could be as young as 100 million years—or even younger. That is quite an age range.
In fact, there is well documented evidence that geological activity is taking place on the moon’s surface at the present time.5 This evidence is in the form of transient lunar phenomena, which include “localized colour changes, spots or streaks of light, clouds, hazes, veils and other observations that speak of geological activity on the moon.”6 The earliest reported observations go back 1,000 years and in the early days of the telescope such events were freely reported. Transient lunar phenomena are by their nature ephemeral with most reports by a single observer and unable to be independently confirmed. Belief in the evolutionary long-age paradigm has tended to discount the significance of these claims, even to discourage their reporting.
Scarps, however, are a permanent feature on the landscape and their presence can be confirmed by repeated observation.
In order to produce the amount of strain needed to create these thrust faults, the team estimated that the moon’s core would need to be surrounded by an ocean of magma. They suggest that such a magma ocean could have been created by large space objects crashing onto the lunar surface during the so-called (and controversial) Late Heavy Bombardment. In the evolutionary time scale this was around 4 billion years ago, which means that it does not really explain the recent contraction. The heat should have dissipated billions of years ago.
To their credit, the team has not ruled out the possibility that the moon may still be tectonically active and forming scarps today. They plan to re-examine the records of moonquakes from seismometers installed by the Apollo missions in the 1970s. These quakes have been attributed to gravitational tides on the moon, meteorite impacts and temperature changes between day and night. However, Watters’ team plans to check whether some of the recorded moonquakes can be attributed to thrust faults.
Also, they also plan to compare the new LRO images with the photographs from the Apollo cameras. The aim is to see if there have been any changes in the shapes of the scarps in the last 30 years.
Lobate scarps have also been found on Mercury. The same process of planetary contraction is believed to have produced the fault scarps which are huge by comparison—scarps hundreds of kilometres long and 1,000 metres high. The largest extends more than 1,000 km. These scarps suggest that Mercury was once molten and its crust contracted by a few kilometres as its molten interior continued to cool and shrink.
So why don’t we see giant thrust faults on the moon since it is also believed to have been molten once? Although it is slightly smaller than Mercury (over a third of its volume) the contraction of its molten interior should have produced enormous faults. Some researchers suggest the faults did exist once but meteorite bombardment erased them with time. However, their absence is more simply explained by a cooler initial starting temperature, which is the conclusion that team-leader Watters has reached.
The newly discovered fault scarps contradict evolutionary long-age beliefs about the origin and history of the moon but are consistent with the biblical model. They contradict the evolutionary formation hypotheses, which have a molten moon at the beginning. Instead they suggest that the initial temperature of the moon was not much different from its present temperature, consistent with the biblical account. They contradict the billion-year time scale, suggesting instead that Earth’s companion satellite is young.
Within the biblical framework the meteor bombardment of the moon likely took place about 4,500 years ago during the Flood.7–8 The fault scarps discovered are consistent with this sequence of events and the shorter biblical timescale.
- A scarp, or escarpment, is a long steep embankment, or cliff, between two areas of land that are of a different elevation. Return to text.
- Chow, D., Incredible, shrinking Moon revealed in photos, SPACE.com, 19 August 2010; space.com/scienceastronomy/shrinking-moon-new-lunar-photos-100819.html Return to text.
- Watters, T.R. and 10 others, Evidence of recent thrust faulting on the Moon revealed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera, Science 329(5994):936–940, 20 August 2010; DOI: 10.1126/science.1189590. Return to text.
- Neal-Jones, N. and Steigerwald, B., NASA’s LRO Reveals ‘Incredible Shrinking Moon’, 19 August 2010; nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/news/shrinking-moon.html. Return to text.
- DeYoung, D.B., Transient lunar phenomena: a permanent problem for evolutionary models of Moon formation, Journal of Creation 17(1):5–6, 2003. Return to text.
- Whitcomb, J.C. and DeYoung, D.B., The Moon: It’s Creation, Form and Significance, BHM Books, Winona Lake, IN, pp. 105–127, 1978. Return to text.
- Faulkner, D., A biblically-based cratering theory, Journal of Creation 13(1):100–104, 1999. Return to text.
- Hurlbut, T., Shrinking moon likely cooling from Flood-era impacts, Creationism Examiner. Return to text.