Social media posts falsely claim the Moon 'was once split in two'

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on May 4, 2022 at 09:34
  • Updated on May 10, 2022 at 10:50
  • 5 min read
  • By AFP Indonesia
A photo taken by NASA of the Moon's surface has been shared thousands of times in social media posts alongside a claim that the photo proves that the planetary mass was previously split in two. But the claim is false: the photo shows Rima Ariadaeus, which experts say is a fault system similar to those on earth. NASA has also refuted the claim, saying there is no scientific evidence that the Moon was split into two or more parts.

A collage of four photos has been shared more than 260 times since it was uploaded on an Islamic page on Facebook here on August 5, 2019. 

The photo is titled: "The Miracle of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) 'Splitting of the Moon'". 

One picture in the collage shows the Moon's surface, with an arrow pointing to a purported crack seen on the Moon.

Text superimposed on the picture reads: "This is the location of the split that extends across the length of the moon."

The post's caption reads: "The Qur'an says...The hour has come near, and the moon has split [in two]....

"This miracle was also proved by NASA..{ Qura'n & science }".

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on May 3, 2022

The second photo in the collage shows American astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr.  of Apollo 11, the first lunar mission that landed humans on the Moon in July 1969. 

The third photo shows two half Moons; and the last picture shows the full Moon.

The claim -- circulating online among Muslim Internet users from various countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan for years -- refers to the story of a miracle performed by the Prophet Mohammed, which is derived from Chapter 54 Verse 1 of the Koran. 

The same photo collage has been shared more than 15,700 times after it appeared on Islamic pages on Facebook herehere, here, here and here.

The posts, which were still reposted as recently as April 2022, claim that the photo of "the Moon's crack line" was taken from Apollo 10 and Apollo 11. 

That picture also circulated alongside a similar claim in Indonesian, such as in this Facebook post and in this YouTube video, which has been garnered more than 5.4 million views.

But the claim is false.

Reverse image searches trace the source of the photo to the website of US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which published the picture in 2002.

A screenshot of the original photo on NASA's website, taken on April 28, 2022

NASA said the photo, taken by the Apollo 10 crew in May 1969, shows Rima Ariadaeus -- a long rille or lunar trench.

As explained by NASA here, "rilles, such as Rima Ariadaeus, are believed to be faults that formed as a result of tectonic activity. Some scientists believe that the linear rilles might have formed after large impact events, while others believe that the rilles were formed as a surface manifestation of deep-seated dike systems when the moon was still volcanically active.

"Experts agree that Rima Ariadaeus, about 300 km (186.4 mi) long, is a fault system similar to those on Earth."

The same NASA page also published other photos of Rima Ariadaeus. 

Below is a screenshot of a Rima Ariadaeus photo taken by NASA from a different angle:

A screenshot of another Rima Ariadaeus photo on NASA's website

'No scientific evidence'

NASA responded to the claim here when a social media user flagged it in 2010.

"No current scientific evidence reports that the Moon was split into two (or more) parts and then reassembled at any point in the past," said Brad Bailey, a staff scientist from the NASA Lunar Science Institute.

Professor Paul Groot, an astronomer at Radboud University in the Netherlands, said: "The 'split' indicated in the bottom picture [in the misleading image] is present on the Moon, but it definitely does not extend around the Moon."

"It is a feature that is most likely connected to the impact that created Tycho crater, which is located to the bottom right of the feature in the orientation on the picture," he told AFP via email.

Other images of the Moon

The image showing two half moons is a composite made from two different photos of the Moon, available on the website of photo agency Getty Images. 

The first photo, the left part of the image, is titled: "Last Quarter Moon" and shows the moon nearing its last quarter phase.

The second photo is titled: "Low Angle View Of Moon Against Clear Sky At Night Photo File". 

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading post (centre) and the genuine photos (left and right): 

Screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading post (centre) and the genuine photos (left and right) 


The last photo in the misleading post, which shows a full moon, can be found on the website of Tufts University, in Massachusetts. 

The photo is credited to the University of California's Lick Observatory.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading post (left) and the genuine photo (right): 

Screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading post (left) and the genuine photo (right)

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