LUNAR TOPOGRAPHY



Full Composite
This is a composite image of the near side of the Moon taken from an Earth-based telescope. It is constructed from two images taken at first and last quarter so that it shows maximum detail in the center of the Moon's face. The distinction between smooth maria and rough highland regions is emphasized in the image, as are the circular outlines of the maria. Click on the image for a larger version.



EARTH-BASED PHOTOGRAPHS

Color Mosaic
Here is one of the best Earth-based color images of the Moon, taken by amateur astronomer Noel Carboni. It was composited from 15 separate exposures with a digital camera. The stars were added, since it would not be possible to see them against the atmospheric glare caused by the Moon itself. The color differences are real but have been exaggerated by the image processing; they are caused by differences in surface composition (see the spacecraft false-color image below). Click for an enlargement.


Mare Imbrium
Eastern half of Mare Imbrium, showing the Apennine Mountains (lower right) and the large craters Plato (top center) and Archimedes (right center).


Mare Imbrium
Northern edge of Mare Imbrium, with large crater Plato and the Alpine Valley, the deep rift cutting through the mountain range at the upper right.


Appennines
Mosaic image of the Appennine-Caucasus Mountains, lying between Maria Imbrium (upper left) and Serenitatis (lower right). CCD image by amateur astronomer Alessandro Bares.


Copernicus-Nubium
Center-southwest section of nearside with high-contrast illumination. Large crater Copernicus (lower left) and Mare Nubium (right center). Large, flat-bottomed crater above center is Ptolemaeus. North is to the left in this image. Here is a different view of the Nubium region, taken from a mosaic made by Andre van der Hoeven.


Peak Shadows
Image showing shadows cast by peaks near the "terminator" (twilight line on the Moon's surface). The shadows allow the height and the shape of lunar mountains to be determined. Note how tall peaks on the Moon can be isolated from other structures with similar altitudes.


Straight Wall
The "Straight Wall" in Mare Nubium, a fault line extending 120 km. Image by T. Legault.


Hadley Rille
Hadley Rille, the best example of a "sinuous rille," or valley, caused by lava flows. Image by Damian Peach. See the spacecraft image of the Rille below.




SPACECRAFT PHOTOGRAPHS

Bonestell
Moon's surface as imagined by famous space artist Chesley Bonestell, early 1950's. Same spaceship design was used in movie "Destination Moon," for which Bonestell was a technical advisor. A "half Earth" hovers over the mountains.


Moon TopoMap
Topographic map in false color of the altitude of the Moon's surface obtained by the Clementine orbiter mission (1994). Measurements made with a laser altimiter. Redder areas are higher, blue/purple areas lower. The altitude difference between the maria and the highlights is obvious here. There is a strong asymmetry between the near and far sides. Also note the large Aitken impact basin near the lunar South Pole, seen on the far side. This is discussed further below. Click on the image for a larger version.


MoonFalseCol
Lunar terrain types in false color, highlighting differences in surface minerals. This mosaic was constructed from a series of 53 images taken through three spectral filters by Galileo's imaging system as the spacecraft flew over the northern regions of the Moon on December 7, 1992. The part of the Moon visible from Earth is on the left side in this view. The color mosaic shows compositional variations in parts of the Moon's northern hemisphere. Bright pinkish areas are highlands materials, such as those surrounding the oval lava-filled Crisium impact basin toward the bottom of the picture. Blue to orange shades indicate volcanic lava flows. To the left of Crisium, the dark blue Mare Tranquillitatis is richer in titanium than the green and orange maria above it. Thin mineral-rich soils associated with relatively recent impacts are represented by light blue colors; the youngest craters have prominent blue rays extending from them. [Source: Galileo Project, Jet Propulsion Laboratory]


Rugged Surface
Apollo Mission image of rugged lunar surface in high relief, showing results of intense impacts on all scales. Click for enlargement.


Eratosthenes
This is an image taken by Apollo 17 (December 1972). The view is looking south from orbit over the southern edge of Mare Imbrium. The large crater at left center is Erathosthenes. Terrain around the crater is older and more rugged than the mare plains at the bottom of the picture. Note the mountain-like formations in the center of the crater, produced by impact "bounceback." The crater just visible edge-on on the lunar horizon at the lower right is Copernicus. Click for a high-resolution version.

The hills at the left of Eratosthenes are the eastern end of the Apennine Mountain range, which line the southeastern quadrant of Mare Imbrium. Lunar mountains are produced by impact events, not by plate tectonics. Note the steep rise of the hills out of the mare plain.

A small rille, or canyon, caused presumably by lava flow, is visible extending toward the camera from the slopes of Eratosthenes.


A crater in the rugged highlands region on the Moon's far side. Also contains "bounceback" hills in its center.


HadleySite
A view looking down on the landing site of Apollo 15 (arrow), about 1 mile from Hadley Rille. This is one of the largest rilles on the Moon, lying at the southeast edge of Mare Imbrium. (See the wide angle view above.) Hadley Rille is 75 miles long, about 1 mile wide, and up to 950 feet deep. It was produced by a lava flow about 3.3 billion years ago. Note the flat mare terrain, apart from the Rille itself. Click here for a chart of the astronaut explorations of the area.


Schroters Valley
Head of Schroter's Valley, the largest sinuous rille on the Moon, in a view looking south taken by the Apollo 15 astronauts. The Valley cuts through an elevated plateau containing the craters Aristarchus (left) and Herodotus (upper right). It has a maximum width of about 6 miles and a depth of up to 3200 feet. Click on the image for a full scale view. Here is a mosaic of the entire Valley constructed from Apollo 15 images.


Imbrium-Phytheas
Southward looking oblique view of Mare Imbrium and Copernicus crater. Copernicus is seen almost edge-on near the horizon at the center. The crater is 107 km in diameter and is centered at 9.7 N, 20.1 W. In the foreground is Mare Imbrium, peppered with secondary crater chains and elongated craters due to the Copernicus impact. The smoother mare surface is in contrast to the rough highland area at the top of the frame. The large crater near the center of the image is the 20 km diameter Pytheas, at 20.5 N, 20.6 W. At the upper edge of Mare Imbrium are mountains (Montes Carpatus) produced by the Imbrium impact. The distance from the lower edge of the frame to the center of Copernicus is about 400 km. This picture was taken by the metric camera on Apollo 17. Click on the image for a larger version. [Source: NASA NSSDC]


Imbrium
Apollo 15 metric camera image of Southeastern Mare Imbrium. The 33 km diameter Timocharis crater, centered at 26.7 N, 13.1 W, is partly visible at upper left. Note the old fractured terrain at the right and smoother textured and ridged mare terrain at center. The craters Feuillee and Beer(!) are at the top of the image, and just below at right of Beer a small crater chain can be seen. A sinuous rille is also visible at bottom center of the image, running up to middle of the frame. The image is about 115 km across and north is up. Note the strong shadows cast by the low sun angle. Altitudes of peaks like those seen to the right in the image can be determined by measuring these shadows from Earth-based telescopes and applying simple trigonometry. Click on the image for a larger version. [Source: NASA NSSDC]


Farside
The full lunar farside, a mosaic constructed from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images. None of the familiar nearside features are visible in the image. The farside is dominated by highland regions with only two small maria visible in this image. Click for a larger version. Click here for an altitude-coded version of the LRO mosaic.


Aitken Basin
The large Aitken impact basin near the lunar South Pole. This is 2500 km in diameter and 13 km (42,000 feet) deep, making it the largest impact basin in the solar system. (Color coding for altitude is as in the Clementine topographic map above.) Much of it is in perpetual shadow, at temperatures of less than 50 K. Click on the image for a larger version.


Moonrise from Orbit
Full moon rises over Earth limb. Photo taken from orbit at 190 miles altitude by Space Shuttle Columbia during Astro-1 Spacelab mission. Click for full version.



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Last modified April 2012 by rwo

Non-public text copyright © 1998-2012 Robert W. O'Connell. All rights reserved. These notes are intended for the private, noncommercial use of students enrolled in Astronomy 1210 at the University of Virginia.