Lunar topography

Lunar topography

Fig. 5.25 . The laser altimeter on Clementine provided the first comprehensive topographic map of the Moon. The contour interval is 500 meters, and the altitude in kilometers is coded by color from blue to red (bottom). The near side (left) is relatively smooth and low (blue and purple), primarily because of the prominent impact basins, including Imbrium, Crisium and Nectaris, which are at least partly filled with mare basalt. In contrast, the far side (right) shows high relief (red) and extreme topographic variation comparable to that of the Earth. The Moon's wide altitude range is attributed to ancient impact basins that have been preserved for about 3.9 billion years, while the Earth's wide range stems from ongoing mountain building by colliding tectonic plates. The large circular feature on the southern far side (right bottom) is the South Pole - Aitken basin, 2600 kilometers in diameter and 12 kilometers deep. (Courtesy of Paul D. Spudis, Lunar and Planetary Institute.)

Copyright 2010, Professor Kenneth R. Lang, Tufts University