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.
Astronomers believe that the Earth-Moon system was created in a giant impact 4.5 billion years ago. Southwest Research Institute scientists combined dynamical, thermal, and chemical models of the Moon’s formation to explain the relative lack of volatile elements like potassium, sodium, and zinc in lunar rocks, when compared to those of Earth.
Water reserves found on the Moon are the result of asteroids acting as “delivery vehicles” and not of falling comets as was previously thought. Using computer simulation, scientists from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the RAS Geosphere Dynamics Institute have discovered that a large asteroid can deliver more water to the lunar surface than the cumulative fall of comets over a billion year period.