(Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_lunar_features )
How many times have you looked up in the sky and studied the moon? A thousand times? Five thousand times? And yet, can you name just one feature on the face of the moon? No? Embarrassing, isn’t it? What do they teach kids in school these days?
To remedy this shameful state of affairs, this lesson will teach you about some features (characteristics) of the moon. Yes, there will be a quiz at the end of this lesson.
Did you know that “Luna” is the Latin word for moon and is its official name? We just call it “the moon” though since it’s the only one we have.
We will initially only look at two kinds of features — seas and craters. You may ask, “Are there really seas of liquid water on the moon?” No, no such luck. A “sea” on the moon is just a large, dark, smooth area that gives the appearance of being a large body of water when viewed from the Earth. Perhaps in the past that area was molten rock that cooled and hardened.
A crater is a circular spot on the moon where a large meteoroid (big rock flying randomly through space) has smashed into the moon’s surface sometime in the past, causing a damaged area with a circular side or ridge due to the land being pushed outward and upward by the impact. The meteoroid itself is probably underground in the center of the crater, assuming it wasn’t completely pulverized (smashed into powder) by the impact. A crater often has “rays” that radiate outward from the crater in all directions. These rays are simply dirt or rock debris dislocated by the impact and thrown outward to land outside of and around the crater. These rays can be seen around the Tycho Crater near the moon’s South Pole. The Tycho Crater shown below is about 86 kilometers in diameter and about 5 kilometers deep. It was named after a Danish astronomer. Here is a close-up view of the Tycho Crater:
The peak complex at the center of the Tycho crater is 2 kilometers tall. Here is a close-up shot:
We will first learn the names of four “seas” on the east side of moon:
- Sea of Serenity
- Sea of Tranquility
- Sea of Fertility
- Sea of Crises
Mnemonic: From top to bottom, S, T, F => STUFF (Serenity, Tranquility, Fertility)
Locate these seas on the diagram below. Note that the Sea of Crises is the easiest to identify because it stands alone as a little “orphan” sea, not touching any other sea.
Here is the site of our first manned landing on the moon.
Here is a close-up of the Sea of Tranquility. On July 20, 1969, American astronauts visited the moon in a spacecraft called Apollo 11. The lunar lander, which was named “The Eagle”, descended from the orbiting Apollo 11 spacecraft and landed in the Sea of Tranquility. So we have “been there, done that” on this part of the moon.
Here is what the lunar lander looked like on the moon’s surface:
Now here is a quick test to see if you have learned these four seas and this one crater:
- Which letter corresponds to the Sea of Crises?
- Which letter corresponds to the Sea of Fertility?
- Which letter corresponds to the Sea of Tranquility?
- Which letter corresponds to the Sea of Serenity?
- Which number corresponds to the Tycho Crater?
You are now a qualified “moon-a-tic”…or was that a lunatic? Hm, are Luna and “lunatic” related in some way? Perhaps some student can help me out.