A conspiracy theorist on Facebook claimed photos from the moon show “rake marks” in the lunar soil. You have to zoom in and look very hard, but I do see a faint pattern of light-colored lines going diagonal to the camera. They’re definitely not rake marks and I don’t think they’re anything artificial, but I’m curious what processes could have caused them, if indeed I’m not imagining them. What they look like most to my untrained eye is some sort of interference pattern. Can anyone shed light on this?

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    $\begingroup$ It looks like both these photos were taken quite close to the lander; I'd guess the lines were directed away from the lander's landing track and represent the tracks of pebbles and small debris kicked up by the lander's rocket exhaust during landing. $\endgroup$
    – antlersoft
    Feb 22 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ Are you asking about the crossed line segments? If so, those are fiduciary marks that were built into the cameras used by the Apollo astronauts. $\endgroup$ Feb 22 at 21:34
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen no, not those. If you zoom in you can just barely see faint lines in the soil. You really have to look for them, though. $\endgroup$ Feb 22 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ Could you add some markers to the structures you refer to? I have no idea... $\endgroup$
    – asdfex
    Feb 23 at 11:30

1 Answer 1


Definitely not rake marks.

From what I can tell they may have been caused by some kind of impact, which could have been ancient or recent. How do I know? Well, since there is no weather on the moon, marks can remain untouched for thousands if not millions of years. Neil Armstrong's footprint still looks exactly like it did in 1969.

Ancient: The moon also doesn't have much of an atmosphere, meaning that meteors come straight down with nothing to stop them (think in terms of micrometeors here.) Assuming said (tiny) meteors strike at a diagonal angle, the marks are caused by debris being flung from the impact site.

Recent: That's the natural way it could have happened. The artificial way is that, in simple terms, the lander did it. More in depth, the lander had to slow itself down during the decent phase of the mission, so it doesn't crash into the surface. This is done using small rocket engines called retrorockets that don't have a lot of power. These retrorockets kick up a lot of dust on the way down. The marks could have just been debris that was kicked up by the lander's rockets.

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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh that's exactly why I added that second part there. The whole thing about the meteorites was a more natural way to explain it, although it was unlikely. $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, sorry! I somehow missed the whole 2nd paragraph. I added a little formatting, feel free to roll back or edit further. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Feb 23 at 23:41

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