Let’s Talk Moon

People take the Moon for granted. It’s familiar. It’s always there. Since the 1950s small American and Russian spacecraft have been sent to orbit it, photograph it and crash into it. Some never made it and blew up on launch, others completely missed it and are now orbiting the Sun but some successfully orbited it or landed on it and took what were back in the day considered to be amazing images.

Luna 3 and the photos it took of the far side of the Moon in 1959 (wikipedia, nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov)

The first photos taken from the lunar surface by Luna 9 in 1966 (nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov)

Landing a spacecraft on the Moon represented a very significant achievement. It showed that it was possible to land things on the Moon, that the surface would support the weight of spacecraft and, therefore, astronauts who wouldn’t disappear into lunar quicksand. Apart from these fact finding missions people had looked through telescopes at the Moon, photographed it and sketched it for years before Neil Armstrong took one small step and actually stood on it. This and the following 5 manned missions provided a wealth of data and information which is still being studied today. So several scouting missions, 6 Apollo landing missions and nearly 400kg of lunar rock later what more could there possibly be left to learn? Plenty!

Just looking up at the Moon we can see the familiar dark and light patches so it’s easy for everyone to see that the Moon has two different kinds of terrain. Look through binoculars and we can make out some craters, bright crater rays and bumpy bits and the Moon starts looking a little more complicated. Through even a small telescope the Moon is transformed into a land of mountains, hills, deep shadowy craters some with mountains in the centre, craters within craters, dark areas and incredibly bright areas. Anyone who has done this might then wonder what the mountains and craters look like up close. Now we can find out.

Moon Zoo gives us a chance to get up close and personal with the Moon using bite sized images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera. The resolution of these images is staggering. Not only can we see craters as small as 1 metre in diameter we can also see individual boulders and rocks. The media has picked up on the fact that it is now possible to identify bits of spacecraft and there are many pictures in magazines, newspapers and on the internet showing the crash sites of various American and Russian spacecraft. Most of the debris has already been found and identified but it’s fun to spot it in the Moon Zoo images too.

What is quite unexpected and sometimes takes your breath away is the sheer variety of the lunar landscape. This is where the Moon Zoo forum comes into its own. Some of the images posted on the forum are just stunning. There is everything from mountain ranges and rugged boulder strewn regions to smooth plains and picturesque valleys. We have found evidence of boulders sliding and bouncing down slopes, volcanic activity and, yes, we have found spacecraft. Every click is contributing to science. We are providing data for lunar scientists to find out more about the Moon, its geology, its past and to help pinpoint areas for future exploration.

Here are just some of our recent finds:

Ina – an unusual volcanic feature A lunar tadpole Boulders close up
. . .
Bouncing, sliding boulder tracks Apollo 17 Lunar Alpine Valley
. . .

So while you are clicking on Moon Zoo please consider contributing to the forum. That’s where you can discuss your finds, post your favourite images and learn more about the Moon. We have boards where you can post images and discuss them and we choose one each week to highlight in our Image of the Week feature. We even have a virtual cafe where you can chat and chill. Don’t let that image with a striking odd feature or the image you think one of the science team should really take a look at go unnoticed — the forum is the place to post it. That’s where the Moon Zoo science team go to look. That’s where you can learn about and discuss the science and that’s where discoveries of the strange and unusual are likely to be made. It’s a mixture of amateur clickers and lunar scientists all with one thing in common — a desire to learn more about the Moon. It’s informal, friendly, and there is no such thing as a silly question. Make one post or become a regular, it’s entirely up to you, but please come and join us — you’ll get a warm welcome!

Jules is the volunteer Moderator of the Moon Zoo Forum

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About The Zooniverse

Online citizen science projects. The Zooniverse is doing real science online,.

5 responses to “Let’s Talk Moon”

  1. Thomas says :

    Great blog entry Jules.

  2. Methyxa says :


  3. DJ says :

    Very well done. Glad to see the tadpole in the examples, too. It’s definitely one of the most unforgettable images thus far. I hope the new folk will spend some time in the forum and add to the wealth of images and discussion. The more that do, the better it gets.

  4. Geoff says :

    Great blog – my favourite image is still the INA feature.

  5. Half65 says :

    A great post and great images

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