Seismic Data from Man-Made Impacts on the Moon

Science  06 Nov 1970:
Vol. 170, Issue 3958, pp. 620-626
DOI: 10.1126/science.170.3958.620


Unusually long reverberations were recorded from two lunar impacts by a seismic station installed on the lunar surface by the Apollo 12 astronauts. Seismic data from these impacts suggest that the lunar mare in the region of the Apollo 12 landing site consists of material with very low seismic velocities near the surface, with velocity increasing with depth to 5 to 6 kilometers per second (for compressional waves) at a depth of 20 kilometers. Absorption of seismic waves in this structure is extremely low relative to typical continental crustal materials on earth. It is unlikely that a major boundary similar to the crustmantle interface on earth exists in the outer 20 kilometers of the moon. A combination of dispersion and scattering of surface waves probably explains the lunar seismic reverberation. Scattering of these waves implies the presence of heterogeneity within the outer zone of the mare on a scale of from several hundred meters (or less) to several kilometers. Seismic signals from 160 events of natural origin have been recorded during the first 7 months of operation of the Apollo 12 seismic station. At least 26 of the natural events are small moonquakes. Many of the natural events are thought to be meteoroid impacts.