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The Moonometer™ Challenge

Did you know that Moon Zoo users have now classified an area three times the size of Wales? Or maybe you’d be interested to learn that, even on slow days, Moon Zoo users trawl a section of the Moon bigger than 500 Disneylands!

To celebrate International Observe the Moon Night we have launched the Moonometer™ – a fun way to understand how much work Moon Zoo is doing minute-by-minute. In addition, between September 15th and 19th we are challenging the Moon Zoo community to classify a huge chunk of the Moon: 20,000 images! This is roughly equivalent to an area twice the size of Chicago!

The Moonometer

To take part in the challenge all you have to do is classify things on Moon Zoo using either the Crater Survey or Boulder Wars tools. The Moonometer™ keeps track of the number of LRO images that have been classified and converts them into approximate equivalent areas.

You can also keep track of activity on Moon Zoo via the Moon Zoo Live! page. Here you’ll find ever-updating maps that show how Moon zoo is connecting the Earth to the Moon thanks to our users.

International Observe the Moon Night is all about learning more about the Moon going and taking a look at it. You can use our Explore the Moon pages to find out more about our nearest neighbour in space. To get involved with the Moon Zoo community, visit our forum and see what we’re currently talking about and looking at.

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,

The first photos taken from the lunar surface by Luna 9 in 1966 (

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

Examine the Moon

We’ve added a couple of new features to Moon Zoo this week – which should help you learn more about the project and about the Moon itself. As well as testing the capabilities of the Zooniverse HQ coffee machine we have been trying to create new, useful tools that allow everyone to really explore the Moon.

Moon Zoo Live, and the new Examine tool, allow everyone to begin to understand what the LRO images show, and where they are on the Moon’s surface. On the Moon Zoo forum, users have been asking to know a bit more about the parts of the Moon they have classified and explored. We’re hoping that these new additions will help.


Every LRO image in our database now has its own ‘examine’ page that shows you more information about it. At present, you can access these from either the ‘My Moon Zoo‘ page or from the ‘More Information’ links on Moon Zoo live. There are some nice examples, here, here and here.

This powerful new tool lets you see each tile from our LRO dataset in context. You can zoom in and out, explore the surrounding area and see the entire LRO strip from which the tile originated. You can also see the same region of the Moon in other online Moon tools.


Moon Zoo Live shows a near real-time stream of Moon Zoo classifications on a pair of ever-updating maps. You can see not only where on the Moon everyone is busy clicking, but also where on the Earth they are clicking from! Moon Zoo Live connects these two worlds through the magic of the Zooniverse!

We hope you enjoy these new additions to Moon Zoo.

Welcome to Moon Zoo

Moon Zoo launch has arrived! After over a year of planning, discussing and debating, Moon Zoo is finally being launched today. It is an exciting time for all the people who have been working hard on the project: from the geologists and planetary scientists who helped to conceive the scientific rationale behind the tasks, to the computer whizzes and Galaxy Zoo gurus who have made the whole thing possible.

We would especially like to thank all those at NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center and Arizona State University who planned, designed, built, calibrated and operated the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) and LRO mission. We are using LROC images that have been archived through the Planetary Data System. We are incredibly grateful that NASA and the LROC team is willing to share these images with the rest of the world so that we can all enjoy looking at the surface of our nearest neighbour. If you would like to know more about the LROC camera I suggest taking at look at their great website and more information about the LRO mission itself can be seen at here.

So, down to it. Why should you spend your time working hard on Moon Zoo tasks? Well there are several pages on this site that will help to explain the science behind Moon Zoo in more detail, but in short we hope that Moon Zoo data will provide new insights into the geological history of the Moon from volcanic eruptions to asteroid impact events. Studying LROC images of the lunar surface provides a close up view that has never been seen before and we want to use this powerful new dataset to investigate the nature of the lunar surface. We hope to collect a database of the size and dimensions of small (less than 2 km) lunar craters that will be helpful not only to understanding impact cratering processes on the Moon, but also that can help studying the history of impact bombardment throughout the inner Solar System from Mars, to Mercury and even here on Earth.

We want you to spot lunar geological features that we think are really interesting – from billion-year-old volcanic vent sites to curving lava channels, to brand new impact craters that might have formed in the last forty years. You can see examples of these types of things on the Moon Zoo tutorial page. We also want you to help find out which parts of the Moon are covered with boulders so that we can develop hazard maps that could be used by future spacecraft and human exploration missions to plan the best and worst sites to land on the lunar surface! There are a lot of things to do in Moon Zoo and we have more planned for the future. Most of all – just have fun looking at the amazing diversity of the lunar surface – I certainly have not got bored of looking through these images and hope that you are as equally excited to explore our Moon.

Hope that you enjoy helping out with the investigation and please do leave comments here on the blog, and on the Moon Zoo Forum if you have any feedback, suggestions or questions.

Moon Zoo is Live

Apollo 14 Impact Site from LRO

Moon Zoo is live and the blog will begin updating in the next few hours and days. Meanwhile, go and take a look at some craters…

[Image: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University]