First Ever Complete Geological Map Of The Moon Released By USGS
Have you ever wondered what the surface of the Moon looks like? Or what kind of rocks can be found on the lunar surface? Or even just what scientists see when they think of the celestial body?
Disclaimer: it isn’t cheese, no matter what we might have been told as children. Nope, because for the first time, the entire lunar surface has been completely mapped out by scientists from the USGS Astrogeology Science Center, in collaboration with NASA and the Lunar Planetary Institute.
The map, called the ‘Unified Geologic Map of the Moon’, is available online for free and is colour-coded to help the non-scientists of us quickly identify geological features, including a range of crater types, plains and other features (on a 1:5,000,000 scale).
Scientists created the map using information from six Apollo-era regional maps along with updated information from recent satellite missions to the moon – including Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE) mission, led by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
The existing maps were redrawn to align them with the present-day data sets while also preserving previous observations. The team also developed a ‘unified description’ of the rock layers of the Moon, resolving inconsistency issues that occurred with previous maps.
According to a statement from the researchers, the map will ‘serve as the definitive blueprint of the Moon’s surface geology for future human missions’, and will be ‘invaluable’ – not only for scientists, but for educators and the general public too.
Current USGS Director and former NASA astronaut Jim Reilly said it was ‘wonderful’ to see the team create a resource that can help NASA with their future missions, particularly because ‘people have always been fascinated by the moon and when we might return’.
Corey Fortezzo, USGS geologist and lead author of the research, said:
The NASA-funded Unified Geologic Map of the Moon combines six Apollo-era regional maps into one consistent global stratigraphy and set of surface features. This product provides a framework for new scientific studies and helps connect local surface exploration results to the rest of the Moon.
This map is a culmination of a decades-long project. It provides vital information for new scientific studies by connecting the exploration of specific sites on the moon with the rest of the lunar surface.
Astrogeology Director Justin Hagerty described the process of making the map as a ‘huge effort’, adding: ‘Much of the historical mapping was performed by various groups and at regional scales.’
Moon-gazers best rally their troops, because at the moment if you’re lucky you’ll be able to see ‘planetshine’.
Also known as ‘Earthshine’ and ‘the old Moon in the new Moon’s arms’, the celestial phenomenon takes place several times throughout the year – however, the period between April and June is prime-time to see the glow of ‘the dark side of the moon’.
Between April and June in the northern hemisphere, Earth’s albedo – the sunlight reflected off the planet from the Sun – is particularly intense. Find out more here.
Whether basking in Earth’s glow, sunlight or geological mapping, the Moon is endlessly awe-inspiring.
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