Could fiber optic cable help scientists probe the deep layers of the moon? | Science & Technology

An increasing number of seismologists are using fiber optic cables to detect seismic waves on Earth — but how would this technology fare on the Moon, and what would it tell us about the deep layers of our nearest neighbor in space?

In Seismological Research Letters, Wenbo Wu of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and colleagues explore the idea of deploying a fiber seismic network on the Moon, discussing some of the challenges to overcome.

They also test this hypothetical network using artificial seismograms created from data collected by seismometers placed on the Moon’s surface by the Apollo missions. Based on their results, Wu and colleagues say a fiber seismic network could identify the kind of seismic waves that would provide more information about the Moon’s deep core structure.

The four seismometers placed on the Moon between 1969 and 1976 by the Apollo missions detected thousands of seismic events over seven years on the near side of the Moon. These events included shallow and deep moonquakes, as well as meteorite impacts.

The Apollo seismic data came with some unanswered questions, however: What explains the mysterious lack of moonquakes detected on the far side of the Moon? And why did the Apollo seismometers detect moonquakes occurring 700 to 1100 kilometers below the surface, at a depth on Earth where heat and pressure would lead to plastic deformation instead of the brittle break of an earthquake?

Answering these questions will require many more seismometers deployed in a harsh environment to collect additional seismic events, a task for which fiber seismic networks are well-suited, the researchers suggest.

Wu and colleagues propose using Distributed Acoustic Sensing, or DAS, for a new Moon network. DAS uses the tiny internal flaws in a long optical fiber as seismic sensors. An instrument called an interrogator at one end of the fiber sends laser pulses down the cable that are reflected off the fiber flaws and bounced back to the instrument. When…

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