Planets and Moons  ID: 3662

Counting Craters on the Moon

Some areas of the Moon have more craters than others. The number of large versus small craters also varies across the surface. A census of the crater population can tell scientists the relative ages of different parts of the surface and reveal information about the make-up of the early solar system.

Such a census has been compiled from the elevation data being sent back by the LOLA instrument on Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. It comprises over 5000 craters larger than 20 kilometers in diameter. Some conclusions drawn from an analysis of this crater catalog by members of the LOLA team are described in the September 17, 2010 issue of the journal Science.

This animation illustrates the process of systematically counting craters. Craters larger than 20 kilometers in diameter light up to show color-coded elevation. Some areas, such as the maria and the Orientale basin, are notably sparse, implying that these areas are younger. The processes that formed them erased the record of older impacts visible elsewhere on the Moon.



Visualization Credits

Ernie Wright (UMBC): Lead Animator
Marte Newcombe (GST): Animator
Chris Smith (HTSI): Producer
Andrew Freeberg (NASA/GSFC): Producer
James W. Head III (Brown University): Scientist
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Science Paper:
Head, James W. et al. (2010). Global distribution of large lunar craters: Implications for resurfacing and impactor populations. Science, 329(5998)

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LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter)

Data Used:
LRO/LOLA/Digital Elevation Map August 2009 - May 2010
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

This item is part of these series:
The Moon
LRO - Animations

SVS >> Elevation data
SVS >> Lunar
SVS >> Moon
SVS >> Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
SVS >> Craters
NASA Science >> Planets and Moons