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Starts With A Bang

The Top 5 Features To Find On The Full Moon

Whether it’s “super” or not, you won’t want to miss this piece of the Universe.

“From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’” –Edgar Mitchell, Apollo astronaut

The full Moon, the most unique and recognizable sight in Earth’s night sky, tells a remarkable story even to the naked eye. Here are the top five features you can discover for yourself.

The maria — or seas — of the Moon’s surface visible on the near site. The sea of tranquility (Mare Tranquillitas) was the site of Apollo 11′s landing. Image credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University, annotations by Stardate / The University of Texas McDonald Observatory.

1.) The lunar maria. These dark regions — Latin for “seas” — are solidified lava flows from between 3–3.5 billion years ago: a billion years younger than the majority of the lunar surface. Mare Tranquillitatis contained Apollo 11′s landing site.

A close-up image along with the location of Montes Apenninus, labelled and with data from the LROC wide-angle camera. Image credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University.

2.) Montes Apenninus. The Moon’s highest mountain range outlines Mare Imbrium, extending for over 400 km. It contains Mons Huygens, the Moon’s tallest mountain, and the Hadley–Apennine valley, where Apollo 15 landed.

Tycho crater itself is hard to discern during the Moon’s full phase, but the bright white spot where rays lead to are clearly visible. Image credit: Joe Huber, 2004, via Wikimedia Commons user Svdmolen under c.c.a.-s.a.-3.0.

3.) Tycho crater. A highly-reflective impact crater over 100 km in diameter in the southern lunar highlands. Prominent rays emanate from the impact site. Samples collected by Apollo 16 determined Tycho’s young age: 108 million years.

The full Moon, as imaged in 1992 by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. The contrast and color is slightly enhanced over what human eyes see. Copernicus is visible as a bright spot amidst the darker maria. Image credit: NASA, annotation by E. Siegel.

4.) Copernicus crater. Visible as the bright spot amidst the dark maria, Copernicus, at 107 km in diameter, offers the greatest visual contrast of any lunar crater to human eyes.

The largest of the lunar maria, Oceanus Procellarum comprises more than 10% of the Moon’s surface. Image credit: © 2010 Lehigh University / Carol Kiely, from the Moon Dust project.

5.) Oceanus Procellarum. The largest of all the lunar maria, it’s the only one designated an ocean. It covers approximately 4 million km2 and contained Apollo 12′s landing site.

The annotated prominent features — many of which are naked-eye features — of the near side of the Moon. Image credit: Wikimedia commons users Peter Freiman and Cmglee, with a background photo by Gregory H. Revera, under c.c.a.-s.a.-3.0.

Mostly Mute Monday tells the story of a single astronomical phenomenon or object in visuals, images and video in no more than 200 words. It airs on Tuesday this week due to Ethan’s appearance at Orycon 38!

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