Ever wonder exactly what sort of rocks litter the Moon’s surface in countless bright and dark blotches? Check out the U.S. Geological Survey’s new Moon map covering the entire surface of Earth’s satellite in extraordinary detail. The Unified Geologic Map of the Moon will “serve as the definitive blueprint of the Moon’s surface geology for future human missions and will be invaluable for the international scientific community, educators and the public at large,” says the USGS. The new map is based on images and data from six Apollo regional maps and observations from more recent missions, including laser altimetry for the north and south polar regions, provided by the Lunar Orbiter, and stereo observations of equatorial areas by Japan’s SELENE spacecraft. Researchers developed a unified description of the moon’s stratigraphy and resolved inconsistencies in earlier maps.
The Moon’s Orientale basin is an archetype of “multi-ring” basins found throughout the solar system. New research has enabled scientists to reconstruct Orientale’s formation using data from NASA’s GRAIL mission. It is now thought that the 580-mile-wide feature was created 3.8 billion years ago by an impacting object some 40 miles across travelling at about 9 miles per second.