Discover the brutal secret of the moon's violent past.
Long before the first humans gazed up into the velvety blackness of the night sky, the moon was young and fresh-faced. These were the early days, before the patchwork of inky stains called the Man in the Moon, before the brilliant starburst patterns called ray craters decorated the surface, before a colossal crash turned one-fifth of its real estate into the South Pole-Aitken basin. Fast-forward to the present, and the moon's once smooth contour appears flawed and disfigured, punished by explosive volcanic eruptions and raining interstellar objects that bombarded its surface over eons. In the visualizations below, see some of the clearest views of the moon yet, courtesy of NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and witness a recreation of the destructive, 4.5-billion-year evolution of Earth's natural satellite.