The Moon Guide
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U. S. N. O.
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The phase of the Moon right now

Phase
 
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Full Moon
The full Moon as it appears through binoculars
The Moon’s geological features

Our Moon is the brightest and most dominant object in the night sky and has influenced human culture throughout time. The Moon affects our daily lives in the form of raising the tides, and has been an instrument of navigation for sailors right up to the present day. There is a vast array of music, art, fiction and poetry based around the Moon, yet it can all too easily be overlooked. The Moon is the perfect starting point for astronomical observations because, like everything in the sky, it is free to look at, but unlike stars and planets, you can make out a variety of features with just your eyes.

This section aims to introduce you to the main geological features of the Moon, some of which you can see with your naked eye, and others which require a pair of binoculars or small telescope. Find out more about how to observe the Moon in the Observing section.

From mountains to seas
You can easily see from looking at the Moon with your unaided eye that there are two types of terrain on the Moon. The grey-coloured regions are called maria, which means seas (the singular form is mare, pronounced mar-ay, and the plural is pronouced mar-rea), so-called because early astronomers believed the basins to be filled with water. We know now that the maria are in fact ancient pools of lava that flooded giant impact basins, that have since solidified. Surrounding the maria are the contrasting bright white and heavily cratered highlands, which represent the most ancient parts of the lunar surface. Most of the far side of the Moon is made up of highlands material, whereas the largest maria are found on the nearside. 

What is the Moon made of? >

Clementine map of the Moon
This map of the Moon made from observations by the Clementine spacecraft shows the whole of its surface stretched out. The near side is at centre, showing how most of the maria are on the side facing Earth.
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Lunar geologist
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Lunar geology

Moon rocks on Earth

Moon quakes

How the Moon was formed

Geology of the Moon's features

What is the Moon made of?

Lunar gardening

About impacts

Ray craters

Ageing wrinkles

Meandering channels

 
spacerMaintained by SPA Webmaster: Last modified 6 November 2008
 
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