Map of Full Moon
Many of the Moon's prominent features are visible in this photo (major ones are labeled). For a more detailed map click on: interactive moon map
. The dark gray areas are called mare
(pron. mah-ray), the Latin word for "sea". Early people assumed the dark areas on the moon contained water, thus the "seas" and "ocean". There is little if any atmosphere and with temperature extremes between -250 degrees F (on the dark side) and +250 degrees F (on the sunlight side), it is impossible to have liquid water on the surface of the moon.
The Mare Tranquillitatis
or Sea of Tranquility was the location of the first Moon landing by the Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969. Mare
are smooth plains formed when lava rose to the surface and hardened after asteroid impacts billions of years ago.
Two of the moon's large impact craters, Tycho and Copernicus, look like sunbursts. Copernicus Crater is 57 miles wide and was caused by an asteroid impact about 800 million years ago. At 109 million years, Tycho is much "younger". Since there is no air or water on the moon, there is no weathering or erosion to change the surface features. The Apollo astronauts' footprints and moon buggy tracks will be up there forever unless they are struck by another meteorite or blown away by a manned lunar landing!
Websites explaining a theory of how the Moon formed:
moon formation animation
and what might have happened
if there was no moon