Highlands and mare landscapes on the Moon

May 26, 2006
Highlands and mare landscapes on the Moon

These two images, taken by the advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA's SMART-1 spacecraft, show the difference between lunar highlands and a mare area from close by.

The first image, showing highlands, was obtained by AMIE on 22 January 2006, from a distance of about 1112 kilometres from the surface, with a ground resolution of 100 metres per pixel. The imaged area is centred at a latitude of 26º South and at a longitude of 157º West. The second image, showing a mare, was taken on 10 January 2006, from a distance of about 1990 kilometres and with a ground resolution of 180 metres per pixel. The geographical coordinates of the area are 27.4º North latitude and 0.8º East.

Already when looking at the Moon with the naked eye, it can be seen that there are bright and dark areas on its surface. Centuries ago, the dark areas were called 'maria', presumably assuming that the observer would be seeing water oceans. Today we know that there is no liquid water on our satellite. However, telescopic observations showed that the maria are very flat, and are very different from the so-called highlands. The highlands are heavily cratered and mountainous.

We have learned that the maria are relatively young areas on the Moon which were generated after very large impacts penetrated the crust of our Moon and excavated basins. During later volcanic episodes, liquid magma came to the surface and filled these basins. When it cooled down and solidified, it formed the large flat areas we can still see now. As this happened in comparatively recent times, the number of impact craters is far less than in the highland areas.

From the two AMIE images it is possible to see how highlands present a very irregular topography and many craters, while the mare area is comparatively flat and shows a much smaller number of craters.

Source: ESA

Explore further: The moon

Related Stories

The moon

September 21, 2015

Look up in the night sky. On a clear night, if you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse of the moon shining in all it's glory. As Earth's only satellite, the moon has orbited our planet for over three and a half billion years. ...

Unique volcanic complex discovered on Moon's far side

July 25, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Analysis of new images of a curious “hot spot” on the far side of the Moon reveal it to be a small volcanic province created by the upwelling of silicic magma. The unusual location of the province ...

SMART-1 on the trail of the Moon's beginnings

August 18, 2006

The D-CIXS instrument on ESA's Moon mission SMART-1 has produced the first detection from orbit of calcium on the lunar surface. By doing this, the instrument has taken a step towards answering the old question: did the Moon ...

Recommended for you

Dead comets and near-earth encounters

October 13, 2015

Near Earth Objects (NEOs) are asteroids or comets whose orbits sometimes bring them close to the Earth, thereby posing a potentially threat. The asteroid that struck Chelyabinsk last year was an NEO about 40 meters in diameter. ...

What happens when your brain can't tell which way is up?

October 13, 2015

In space, there is no "up" or "down." That can mess with the human brain and affect the way people move and think in space. An investigation on the International Space Station seeks to understand how the brain changes in ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.