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.
Jupiter is now less than a month from opposition (7 April), so it’s very much open season for the Solar System’s largest planet. If you’re unsure where to find it, the rising 17-day-old waning gibbous Moon passes just two degrees from Jupiter on the UK evening of 14 March. Virgo’s brightest star, first-magnitude Spica, makes it a great binocular triumvirate.
Mercury attains its maximum westerly elongation from the Sun on 26 August, meaning that the innermost planet is currently well placed for observation from the UK and Western Europe in the eastern sky around 40 minutes before sunrise. In addition to those in the evening sky, you might just see all five bright naked-eye planets this month!