Zoom, spin, or pick an icon...any icon! Learn more about features on the Moon, places we've been, and places we're going.
Be sure to check back in the next few months as we increase the resolution of the Moon Globe terrain and give you more ways to poke and prod it into submission. In the coming years, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter - currently orbiting a Moon near you! - will provide us with even more amazing information and imagery from the Moon's surface.
When you look up at the Moon, the brighter, light-colored regions are the lunar highlands. These areas are the oldest lunar crust, formed from an ancient magma ocean that covered the surface of the Moon 4.5 billion years ago. But that's another story...
The Moon is covered by circles. Actually, by circular depressions. The easiest ones to see are really big - bigger than the state of Texas. These are impact basins.
Impact basins formed when really big asteroids ran into the Moon because Bruce Willis didn't stop them in time. The smaller ones are impact craters, formed when - wait for it - smaller asteroids and comets ran into the Moon. And yes, impacts are happening all around our solar system even now, though they tend to be small and infrequent (sleep well tonight). More
The large dark regions you see when you look at the Moon are the lunar maria (no, not mar-E-ah from West Side Story... it's pronounced Mar-e-ah.)
Early in the Moon's history, lava poured out from inside the Moon, filling the big impact basins. The lava cooled, forming a fine grained dark rock called basalt.
Most maria are between 3.0 and 3.8 billion years old, based on the dates from the rocks the Apollo astronauts brought back. More
Welcome to Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains). Dark volcanic rock fills Imbrium Basin, one of the largest basins on the Moon. At 700 miles across (1120 km), the basin is almost as wide as Texas.
Imbrium Basin formed when a huge impactor - about 60 miles across (100 km) - hit the Moon a little more than 3.8 billion years ago. As you explore other areas of the Moon, you will discover that many of the large basins formed at nearly the same time (3.8 to 4.0 billion years ago) in an event often called the "lunar cataclysm."
This small, bright circle is Copernicus Impact Crater. About 800 million years ago, an asteroid hit the Moon, creating the 93 kilometer-wide crater and spewing debris in all directions.
The star-like pattern of rays splattered up to 500 miles (800 km) away from the crater - roughly the driving distance from Boston to Washington, D.C. The rays create a gorgeous star-like pattern.
This bright star of material is Tycho Crater. It's about 53 miles (85 km) across, and has ejecta rays stretching over a thousand miles away from the crater! The crater is estimated to be very young... only about 110 million years old! More
Humans first set foot on the Moon in the Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility). Site of the 1969 Apollo 11 landing, this 500-mile-wide (800 km) plain of volcanic rock fills an ancient impact basin, created when a huge asteroid struck the Moon over 3.8 billion years ago.
The Apollo 17 astronauts sampled some of the oldest rocks on the Moon from the basin walls surrounding the Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity). The 470-mile-wide (750 km) basin formed formed when a huge asteroid struck the Moon 3.9 billion years ago. Similar asteroids were hitting the Earth at the same time, totally wrecking our home world.
Welcome to Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds), a basin with a cloud-like outline.
Always a favorite, Mare Crisium (the Sea of Crises) is easy to find on the Moon's surface. It's an isolated dark circle on the far right side. At 310 miles across (500 km), this basin is about as wide as the distance from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.
Mare Crisium formed about 3.85 billion years ago when a huge asteroid struck the Moon. Later the basin filled with lava that chilled into a dark volcanic rock.
Although the surface looks smooth, it is splattered with millions of smaller impact craters, ranging from pinhead-sized to many miles wide.
The biggest, deepest hole in the entire solar system is right here: South Pole - Aitken Basin. This 1550-mile-wide (2500 km), eight-mile-deep (13 km) hole formed when a big ol' asteroid smashed into the Moon. It's just about as far across as the distance from Portland, Maine to Miami.
Scientists are particularly interested in SPA (ha! Now you can impress your friends and colleagues as you blithely use this acronym) because it may contain samples on its surface that are from much deeper in the Moon.
Welcome to the refrigerators of the Moon. Craters with floors that are in permanent darkness - and therefore are permanently cold - may occur at the Moon's north and south poles. Frozen gases, delivered over time by comets, may be trapped in these holes. This includes hydrogen; we still don't know whether it includes frozen water.
We made up the polar pictures; we're waiting for the images that the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will sent to fill in gaps in our data. More
Aim here. This bull's-eye-is the Orientale ("eastern") Basin. This 575-mile-wide (930 km) basin formed when an asteroid smashed into the Moon. The rings are like steps, where the walls of the basin slid down into the center. Other basins have rings too, but they have been mostly covered by the lava that filled them. Orientale is also partially filled with lava, but it is limited to the very center. The dark center is called Mare Orientale (the "eastern sea").
"That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."
This is the place, right here in the Sea of Tranquility, where humans first set foot on the Moon, July 20, 1969 at 10:56 pm Eastern Daylight Time. Several other footsteps followed in the next few hours.
Once it was established that neither the lunar lander nor the astronauts were going to sink into the lunar regolith (true story) Astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong collected samples, set up equipment to monitor moonquakes, put in place a reflector to help measure the exact distance to the Earth, took a few snapshots to share with friends, and headed home.
"Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that's a long one for me."
And with this oh-so eloquent statement, Astronaut Pete Conrad (somewhat shorter than Neil Armstrong) stepped down to the second place on the Moon visited by humans.
This was another landing in the relatively smooth lunar maria. More samples collected, more experiments - similar to those at the Apollo 11 site with some extras - done. Hey, this was just the second trip ever to the Moon, lots of basic information needed to be collected.
Astronaut Alan Shepard hit two golf balls on the Moon at the landing site of Apollo 14. When not practicing his swing, he and his colleague Edgar Mitchell conducted yet anoooother suite of experiments (the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package, or NASA-eeze's ALSEP) and collected rocks intended to help scientists date the timing of the asteroid impact that made Imbrium Basin.
Astronauts Dave Scott and Jim Irwin explored the edge of Imbrium Basin, in the shadow of the Apennine Mountains. This time the astronauts spent almost three days on the Moon - and they had a moonbuggy! Woot! They went a whopping 17 miles (28 km) - but explored farther than any other mission before. Check out this flyover of Hadley Rille (the landing site).
While there, Scott set out to prove Galileo Galilei's theory that objects of different mass fall at the same rate in a vacuum - say, like the vacuum of space. Scott simultaneously dropped a falcon feather and a hammer. And indeed, they reached the surface of the Moon at the same time. You can watch the video..
Time to shake things up. With several successful landings on smooth maria, Apollo 16 ventured into the rugged lunar highlands, landing in the Descartes Mountains.
Astronauts John Young and Charlie Duke collected numerous rock samples, one of which would provide scientists with a sample of the oldest lunar crust, formed 4.5 billion years ago.
Another giant leap achieved by this mission: at 11 miles per hour (18 kilometers per hour), this mission set the Guinness Book of Records for the fastest speed of a wheeled vehicle on the Moon.
"Here Man completed his first explorations of the moon. December 1972 AD. May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind."
This is the location of the last human activity on the Moon, at the edge of the Sea of Serenity. Astronauts Jack Schmitt (the only geologist among the Apollo astronauts) and Gene Cernan collected samples, including tiny spheres of orange and black volcanic glass. The glass formed when ancient magma fountains shot out of the lunar surface billions of years ago, spewing droplets of lava into space. The droplets "froze," forming tiny particles of glass, before falling back to the lunar surface.
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