Landscapes from the ancient and eroded lunar far side

Jul 14, 2006
Landscapes from the ancient and eroded lunar far side
This image, taken by the advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA's SMART-1 spacecraft, shows a highly eroded highland area close to the equator on the lunar far side -- the side of the Moon always facing away from Earth. AMIE obtained this image on 1 January 2006, from a distance of 1483 kilometres from the surface, with a ground resolution of 134 metres per pixel. The imaged area is centred at a latitude of 4.2º South and longitude 98.4º East. This image shows some highly eroded highland areas. Many craters are almost not longer visible, as they were destroyed by subsequent impacts. Credit: ESA/SMART-1/Space-X (Space Exploration Institute)

This image, taken by the advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA's SMART-1 spacecraft, shows a highly eroded highland area on the lunar far side, close to the equator.

AMIE obtained this image on 1 January 2006, from a distance of 1483 kilometres from the surface, with a ground resolution of 134 metres per pixel. The imaged area is centred at a latitude of 4.2º South and longitude 98.4º East. The Moon's rotation is locked to the Earth, that is the Moon always presents roughly the same side to the Earth. We call the side facing the Earth the 'near side', while the side facing away is the 'far side'.

After the first lunar missions orbited the Moon, it was discovered that unlike the near side, the far side is lacking large lava plains, the so-called 'maria'. The far side is mainly composed of heavily cratered highlands, while only very small areas contain smooth lava plains.

The reason for this difference between near side and far side is not exactly understood. Could the tidal pull of the Earth on the Moon - just like the Moon introduces tides on the water bodies of the Earth - have resulted in such a difference?

The modelling of previous topography and gravity measurements indicate that the solid crust is thinner on the near side. As a consequence, large impacts could excavate the crust more easily on the near side, and so lava had an easier way to flow out and create maria formations.

This image shows some highly eroded highland area on the lunar far side. Many craters are almost not longer visible, as they were destroyed by subsequent impacts.

Source: ESA

Explore further: Planck helps to understand the macrostructure of the universe

Related Stories

Feud on Earth but peace in space for US and Russia

Mar 26, 2015

Hundreds of kilometres below on Earth, their governments are locked in a standoff over Ukraine—but up in space, Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts are still working together side by side.

The first space walk happened 50 years ago, and nearly ended in disaster

Mar 18, 2015

It is 50 years since humans first encountered space – not Sputnik's first orbit, nor Yuri Gagarin's first spaceflight – but the first time a crew member stepped out from their spacecraft's relative protection and immersed themselves in the cold, hostile emptiness of the vacuum. ...

Carina Nebula survey reveals details of star formation

Mar 09, 2015

A new Rice University-led survey of one of the most active star-forming regions in the galactic neighborhood is helping astronomers better understand the processes that may have contributed to the formation ...

We must defend science if we want a prosperous future

Mar 03, 2015

Today's Australians are, by far, the best educated cohort in our history –- on paper, anyway -– but this is not reflected in the quality of our political discourse. We appear to be lacking in courage, ...

Recommended for you

Dusty substructure in a galaxy far far away

11 hours ago

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) have combined high-resolution images from the ALMA telescopes with a new scheme for undoing the distorting effects of a powerful gravitational ...

ALMA disentangles complex birth of giant stars

11 hours ago

A research group led by Aya Higuchi, a researcher at Ibaraki University, conducted observations of the massive-star forming region IRAS 16547-4247 with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). ...

Image: The tumultuous heart of the Large Magellanic Cloud

Mar 31, 2015

A scene of jagged fiery peaks, turbulent magma-like clouds and fiercely hot bursts of bright light. Although this may be reminiscent of a raging fire or the heart of a volcano, it actually shows a cold cosmic ...

User comments : 0

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.