A New Moon Rises

Lunar Vistas

Impacts, volcanic activity, and tectonic reshaping of the surface by internal forces have created a remarkably diverse lunar landscape. Despite its small size, the Moon has dramatic terrains that rival those of any object in the solar system. Some landforms are similar to those found on the Earth; others are quite different.

Irregular Impact Crater

An Irregular Impact Crater
Impact craters usually vary from circular to elliptical. Ryder crater's complicated "snowman" shape probably results from a combination of factors. It formed on a steep ridge, which may have affected its shape. And perhaps it was created by an asteroid that split apart before impact.

Image ID: M176670797LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 22 km (14 mi.)

Mount Marilyn

Mount Marilyn
Astronaut Jim Lovell named this triangular mountain after his wife during the Apollo 8 mission, when he and his crew became the first to orbit the Moon. It later served as a navigational landmark during the first Moon landing. When Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spotted Mt. Marilyn from their lunar module window at a particular moment, they knew they were on course.

Image ID: M1142226401LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 50 km (31 mi.)

Final Apollo Landing Site

The Final Apollo Landing Site
The Taurus-Littrow Valley (center) was the site of the Apollo 17 landing. Astronauts Jack Schmitt and Gene Cernan explored the lava-filled valley and the South Massif and North Massif, the mountains that border it.

Image ID: M192703697LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 25 km (16 mi.)

Malapert Mountain

A Beacon in the Polar Darkness
The Sun only grazes the horizon near the lunar poles. But because Malapert Mountain rises 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) above its surroundings, it enjoys prolonged periods of sunlight. Locations such as this may be ideal for future long-term missions due to their extended access to solar energy and steady temperatures.

Image ID: M1166454457LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 50 km (31 mi.)

Lunar Wrinkles

Intersecting Wrinkles
Lava once flooded and filled the mare basins. After it hardened into basalt, tectonic forces broke and buckled the volcanic rock into complex patterns of wrinkle ridges that zigzag through the dark mare. Three wrinkle ridges and their underlying faults come together here in Mare Frigoris to form an unusual triple junction.

Image ID: M1190989008LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 40 km (25 mi.)

Cracked Crater on the Moon

A Cracked Crater
A squiggly valley (called a sinuous rille) roughly parallels the far wall of Posidonius crater. It was formed by a massive outpouring of lava that flowed chaotically across the landscape. Cutting across the center of the crater is a different type of valley (a linear rille). It formed later, as the floor of the crater was uplifted and the hardened lava cracked and pulled apart, creating a narrow trough, or graben.

Image ID: M1108017413LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 80 km (50 mi.)

Largest Sinuous Rille

A Valley Within a Valley
This valley on the Aristarchus Plateau is the largest sinuous rille on the Moon. It is more than 150 kilometers (93 miles) long, 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) wide, and 500 meters (1,640 feet) deep. Sinuous rilles are channels carved by eruptions of very fluid lava. As the eruption that formed this large rille waned and the amount of lava decreased, the smaller channel within it formed.

Image ID: M1139200485LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 65 km (40 mi.)

Giant Lunar Pit

A Huge Volcanic Eruption
This giant pit, 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) wide and 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) deep, was formed by a massive, explosive volcanic eruption. The ash deposits blown from the crater may be rich in hydrogen, helium, iron, and titanium. They not only provide a glimpse into the composition of the lunar interior, but also could serve as resources for future lunar explorers.

Image ID: M1160789857LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 35 km (22 mi.)

Lunar Swirls

Lunar Swirls
Lunar swirls are among the Moon's most beautiful and bizarre features. These bright, sinuous patterns look like they are painted across the flat mare terrain and up and over the tall peaks. Some scientists believe they may result from local magnetic field anomalies that shield the surface from the solar wind striking the lunar soil.

Image ID: M191830503LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 50 km (31 mi.)

Reiner Gamma

The Strangest of Swirls
Reiner Gamma is one of the Moon's most distinctive and mysterious features. This striking, tadpole-shaped swirl puzzles lunar scientists. Some think that its origin, as with other swirls, is somehow related to the shielding effects of localized magnetic field anomalies.

Image ID: M1127569280LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 50 km (31 mi.)

Rugged Mountains on the Moon

A Slash Across Mountains
A band of rugged mountains form a rough central peak ring in Schrödinger Basin. This basin has only a fairly thin veneer of lava covering its floor, so its original form is mostly intact. Large parts of the basin were uplifted and pulled apart, causing the 100-kilometer (62-mile) long, 200-meter (660-foot) deep narrow trough, or graben, that cuts across the scene.

Image ID: M1192453566LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 65 km (40 mi.)

Plaskett Crater

Rising from the Darkness
The regions around the lunar poles spend much of the day in shadow. Some areas are eternally dark. Here, the mountainous central peaks of Plaskett crater rise dramatically more than 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) above the shadowed crater floor.

Image ID: M1181012362LR
Camera: NAC
Image width: 35 km (22 mi.)