The first high-definition atlas of the moon has been released

Chinese astronomers have published the most detailed atlas of the moon ever, which they describe as the “first high-resolution geological atlas of the entire moon.” The atlas not only provides images of the craters as seen from telescopes or orbiters, but also provides geological, lithological and tectonic maps of the entire lunar surface.

NASA compiled detailed maps of the near side of the moon ahead of the Apollo missions and released them to the public to decorate the walls of many classrooms, with higher resolution versions available to enthusiastic amateur astronomers. But just as lunar exploration has stalled for decades, so have accessible maps. Now, however, both are changing, as countries rush to outdo each other.

Years of deploying lunar orbiters equipped with sensors far more advanced than were available in pre-Apollo days have yielded a wealth of new information about the moon.

“Due to the accumulation of data and research results, these geological maps of the moon may no longer meet the future needs of scientific research and lunar exploration,” said the atlas’ editor-in-chief, Liu Jianzhong of the Institute of Geochemistry of China Academy of Sciences. rack.

Liu has overseen the production of lunar geological maps at a scale of 1:2.5 million, so that each centimeter on the map is equivalent to 25 kilometers (15.5 miles). In addition to detailed maps of 30 quadrangles of the moon, there are maps of the entire lunar surface to visualize at once, albeit slightly distorted near the poles.

Although the moon does not have active plate tectonics moving against each other like Earth, it retains what Liu and colleagues call “tectonic units” from the beginning of its formation. The tectonic map reveals their locations, along with an explanation of the classification system for lunar structures.

It may look less interesting than the others, but the fact that the moon still has tectonic units is meaningful even without seeing their boundaries.

It may look less interesting than the others, but the fact that the moon still has tectonic units is meaningful even without seeing their boundaries.

Image credits: Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences

The lithographic map marks different types of rocks by color, while the geological map is the most famous, identifying the craters, their composition and the timing of their formation.

The lithographic map shows the moon in a new way, showing the different types of rocks according to their color

The lithographic map shows the moon in a new way, showing the different types of rocks according to their color.

Image credits: Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences

During the process of producing these maps, the team came up with their new timeline for the moon, dividing the moon’s geological history into three eons and six periods, which they believe is more objective than previous timelines.

The new timeline highlights the importance of the shift from the Moon’s youth, when change was driven from within (endogenous), to the much longer period of domination by external influences such as asteroid impacts (exogenous). The atlas’ creators say this distinction also helped them classify the moon’s structures and rock types to create the different types of maps.

In addition to marking 12,341 impact craters, 81 impact basins, 17 types of rocks and 14 types of structures, the atlas makers classified the basins based on the processes of their formation. They also included important markers of the new era, which some people call the Anthropocene of the Moon, with the locations of moon landings, both by humans and machines.

The complete atlas comes as a set, but be prepared for sticker shock due to the price

The entire atlas is supplied as a set, but the price suggests that it is intended more for institutions than for individuals.

Image credits: Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences

The potential of the atlas, which is available in both Chinese and English, for education is obvious, especially in the event that the upcoming human landings generate global interest. However, its creators also see it as a tool for “lunar scientific research… landing site selection, lunar resource exploration, and trajectory planning for China’s future lunar exploration projects.”

The Atlas is available from Geological Publishers, but it’s probably not a birthday gift for the moon lover in your life unless you’re very wealthy.

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