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Lunar Highlands And Mare Landscapes

Highlands and 'mare' seen by SMART-1. Image credit: ESA
by Staff Writers
Paris, France (SPX) May 29, 2006
These two images, taken by the advanced Moon Imaging Experiment aboard 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 Jan. 22 from a distance of about 1,112 kilometers (690 miles) from the surface, with a ground resolution of 100 meters (325 feet) per pixel.

The imaged area is centered at 26 degrees south lunar latitude and 157 degrees west longitude.

The second image, showing a mare, was taken Jan. 10 from a distance of about 1,990 kilometers (1,235 miles) and with a ground resolution of 180 meters (585 feet) per pixel. The coordinates are 27.4 degrees north latitude and 0.8 degrees east longitude.

Even with the naked eye, bright and dark areas appear on the Moon's surface. Centuries ago, people called the dark areas were called maria, presumably because the features resembled oceans. Modern science has found no liquid water on the lunar surface, but telescopic observations have shown the maria are very flat and very different from the lunar highlands, which are heavily cratered and mountainous.

The Moon's maria are relatively young areas, generated after very large impacts penetrated the crust and excavated basins. During later volcanic episodes, liquid magma rose to the surface and filled the basins. When the magma cooled and solidified, it formed the large flat areas seen now. Because this happened in comparatively recent times, the number of impact craters is far less in the mare areas than in the highlands.

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.

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