The beautiful moon. Our illuminant, intriguing friend and closest celestial neighbor. Life is acquiescent to the moon’s power and we wouldn’t be the same without its glorious glow. Many look to the moon for inspiration and answers and many may not look to it at all. But what lies on the surface is just as intriguing as when it debuts in night sky.
The moon is quite an interesting study piece for scientists. The area of science that focuses on the study of the moon is called lunar science. Lunar scientists have their work cut out for them as they study every square inch of our glowing friend. For the amateur astronomer, this article will just scratch the surface on lunar science and enrich in promoting a good appreciation on all the science that involves the moon.
The Surface of the Moon
The moon is a natural satellite, perfectly sphered, and made of volcanic rock mixed with busted asteroid pieces from asteroid impacts. In other words, it’s a gigantic rock orbiting the Earth.
The moon has no atmosphere. There’s no weather, no life, and no circulating gas. There’s only dirt and rock, perfectly still and silent. Incidentally, if an asteroid crashes into the moon, that crash creates a crater and that crater stays a crater for a very, very long time.
Unlike Earth’s roaring atmosphere, the moon does not have an atmosphere.The Earth’s atmosphere creates erosion and revolutionizes tectonics. Everything on the Earth is flowing and moving, swishing microscopic particles all around. This phenomena creates an evolving and ever changing surface- over long periods of time.
As for the moon – nada, nothing, zilch. Without an atmosphere, the moon is vulnerable to an infinite amount of micrometeorite impacts. Buzz Aldrin’s boot print from the Apollo 11 mission to the moon should remain on the moon for about 1-2 million years.
Craters of the Moon
With no atmosphere, the moon exhibits an array of craters that are pretty much timeless. The moon has thousands of craters along with other texture prints such that as the boot prints from NASA’s visit to the moon in 1969. Almost all craters are named and charted. The names of the crater’s are usually named after noted astronomers throughout history. There are well over 300,000 craters on the moon.
Most craters on the moon have formed because an asteroid crash, namely an impact crater. There are two different types of lunar impact craters; simple and complex. Simple impact craters are craters with a bowl like shape and a complex crater is similar though they contain peaks within the floor of the crater.
Let’s zoom in on some of the moon’s craters:
Alphonsus is an impact crater from a pre-Nectarian period that is found in the lower right region of the moon near the Sea of Clouds (Mare Nubium). It looks like a large circle with a small peak formation in the center of the crater. Alphonsus contains five mini craters within its floor. Alphonusus is named after King Alfonso Castile X of Spain, who took a great interest in astronomy and supported astronomers with funds.
Aristarchus is a remarkable impact crater lying northwest from the center of the moon. This particular crater takes the cake for illumination as it is known to be one of the brightest craters on the moon. This crater can be seen by the naked eye and also is known for true glitz when viewed from a telescope. Aristarchus is named after the Greek astronomer, Aristarchus of Samos.
Bailly is a large impact crater located in the southwestern rim towards the edge of moon. Bailly is anything but small and is in fact the largest crater near side of the moon. Bailly has a very interesting feature within its crater by way of hosting two overlapping craters (Bailly A and Bailly B). Bailly was named after the French astronomer, Jean S. Bailly.
Copernicus is an impact crater that can be observed using binoculars. Copernicus is located just northwest of the center of the moon. Copernicus is named after the astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus.
Gassendi is a large crater formed by overflowed lava, many of it’s peaks inside the crater are under lava but it’s highest peaks still mount for a display. Gassendi is a unique crater in that it looks a little like BB8 from Star Wars, as the large circular crater is connected to a smaller circle on top. The crater Gassendi, is named after the French astronomer, Pierre Gassendi.
Kepler is an impact crater that is famous for a spectacular ray system which allows the crater to light up for hundreds of kilometers. You can find Kepler northwest from the center of the moon, in the center for the Ocean of Storms (Oceanus Procellarum) and the Sea of Islands (Mare Insularum). Kepler is named after Johannes Kepler, a German astronomer.
Moltke is a simple impact crater that is much smaller than the other craters that made this list. But what makes it special is it’s almost perfect bowl structure that happens to be surrounded by a lighted halo. Moltke was named after the German Field Marshal, Helmuth Graf von Moltke.
Plato is the leftover imprint of an impact crater that is filled with lava rock. It is located northeast of the moon in the shore of the Sea of Showers (Mare Imbrium). Mare Imbrium is a widespread plain of dried lava said to have formed billions of years ago. Plato is known for light shows by way of a phenomena called transient lunar phenomenon.
Ptolemaeus is superannuated impact crater neighboring Alphonsus in the southeastern region of the moon. This striking crater is larger than most and has a smaller crater in the upper right corner named, Ammonius. Ptolemaeus contains several ghost craters, which were craters at one point but now are covered by lava. Ptotelmaeus is named after the Greek astronomer, Claudius Ptolemy.
Tycho is one of the most prominent craters of the moon as it can be seen with the naked eye and very easy to identify. Tycho is a fairly young impact crater, said to be 108 million years old. Because Tycho is so young, light particles create a glow, lighting up the crater with shining rays. Tycho can be found in the southern lunar highlands, in the southwestern most region of the moon. The crater is named after astronomer, Tycho Brahe of the 16th Century.
The moon is just over 1/4 the size of Earth but pacts a big punch when it comes to study and observation. This natural satellite has many stories to tell and taking a closer look requires a whole field of study.