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.
Before sunrise on Thursday 19 January, observers in Western Europe can see an interesting celestial conjunction in the southern sky. At about 6am local time, the waning gibbous Moon, largest planet Jupiter and Spica — the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo — all lie in a line encompassed by the field of view of a typical 7x or 8x binocular.
Mars lies highest in the sky to the south soon after sunset at the beginning of July for observers in the UK, so you should not waste any opportunities to view the Red Planet while it is close and still relatively large in size. Tharsis, the great Martian volcanic plateau that is home to the largest volcanoes in the solar system, is turned toward Earth in the first week of the month.