Slicing the moon in half would be disastrous for Earth – but beautiful


The moon can be a scourge for astronomers, so the Dead Planets Society has figured out how to destroy it, with consequences both disastrous and visually stunning

By Leah Crane and Chelsea Whyte

It’s time to aim for the moon – and fire at will. In this episode of Dead Planets Society, our hosts Leah Crane and Chelsea Whyte are attempting to crack the whole thing in half. A literal moonshot, if you will.

While the moon may be beautiful hanging in the night sky, it is the nemesis of many astronomers because its light often outshines the dimmer objects they’re trying to observe. Destroying the moon entirely isn’t an option for solving this problem – or is it? Leah and Chelsea are teaming up with experts Haym Benaroya at Rutgers University in New Jersey and Jonathan McDowell at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts to act on a long-standing lunar grudge and find out.

It would take an awful lot of force, not just to crack the moon open and turn the resulting debris into what McDowell describes as “the world’s biggest ball pit,” but to keep gravity from combining it all back together right away. A cosmic jackhammer, or maybe a huge array of lasers, might serve to perforate the moon, but it would take something bigger to actually crack it – perhaps harnessing the power of moonquakes, or smashing one of the solar system’s smaller worlds into it.

The consequences of cracking the moon open would be fairly destructive overall. It could create a fiery rain of lunar fragments with the potential to end life on Earth, and the moon’s influence on the tides would change drastically. But it’s not all bad – the release of the moon’s molten centre could create the largest, weirdest piece of sculpture ever.

Dead Planets Society is a podcast that takes outlandish ideas about how to tinker with the cosmos – from putting out the sun to causing a gravitational wave apocalypse – and subjects them to the laws of physics to see how they fare.

To listen, subscribe to New Scientist Weekly or visit our podcast page here.


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