Gloriously colorful new geologic map of the moon

These images are from the new Unified Geologic Map of the Moon, the most detailed lunar map ever created. Just released by the U.S. Geological Survey, it melds data from last century's Apollo mission era with fresh information captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s SELENE lunar orbiter. From Science News:

Each splash of color identifies a discrete rock or sediment formation, including craters, basins and ancient lava fields. For instance, “the darker, more earth tones are these highland-type terrains, and the reds and the purples tend to be more of these volcanic and lava flow materials,” says geologist James Skinner, who oversees the production of standardized maps for solar system bodies at the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Ariz. [...]

Detailed observations from the lunar orbiters were especially helpful for clearing up uncertainties in how different craters overlapped with each other, which revealed the craters’ relative ages. Hammering out crater formation timelines gives insight into the moon’s history.

The new map could also inform future human missions to the moon by revealing regions that may be rich in useful resources or areas that need more detailed mapping to land a spacecraft there safely.

Read the rest

Earth has tiny temporary second moon, after "capturing" asteroid

With the illustrious name Temporarily Captured Object 2020 CD3, Earth's new moon might not be entertaining a manned landing at any time in the future. Especially since it's only a few feet wide. But the tiny sattelite, spotted February 15 with the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, is something to celebrate all the same.

Our new moon is probably between 1.9 and 3.5 metres across, or roughly the size of a car, making it no match for Earth’s primary moon. It circles our planet about once every 47 days on a wide, oval-shaped orbit that mostly swoops far outside the larger moon’s path.

The orbit isn’t stable, so eventually 2020 CD3 will be flung away from Earth. “It is heading away from the Earth-moon system as we speak,” says Grigori Fedorets at Queen’s University Belfast in the UK, and it looks likely it will escape in April.

Read the rest

Quiz: pancake or moon?

Pancakes are delicious, and they can also look a lot like moons, as proven in Alternative Moons by Nadine Schlieper and Robert Pufleb. I tried my hand at making a few lunar flapjacks and gathering up some mouthwatering moons. Answers in the comments! Read the rest

Look at Saturn's magnificent moon Titan!

NASA just released this beautiful composite infrared view of Saturn's moon Titan. The Cassini spacecraft captured the image last month during its flyby about 6,200 miles above the moon's surface. From NASA:

The view looks toward terrain that is mostly on the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Titan. The scene features the parallel, dark, dune-filled regions named Fensal (to the north) and Aztlan (to the south), which form the shape of a sideways letter "H."

Several places on the image show the surface at higher resolution than elsewhere. These areas, called subframes, show more detail because they were acquired near closest approach. They have finer resolution, but cover smaller areas than data obtained when Cassini was farther away from Titan.

Read the rest