The week of March 6-12 takes us from Full Moon to Day 20. This week we will highlight Mare Imbrium, located in the NW quadrant of the Field Map and viewable on Sunday night.
Mare Imbrium: The Imbrium basin (all of which you can see Sunday night) was created 3.9 billion years ago when an asteroid 60 miles in diameter slammed into the Moon at 10 miles per second and blasted out a 720-mile-wide crater!
Mare Imbrium was at one time a spectacular multi-ring basin like Mare Orientale (Day 13). Fortunately, segments of the original multi-ring features remain in the form of four stunning mountain ranges: the Alps, the Caucasus, the Apennines, and the Carpathians [±F10]. Unlike mountain ranges on the Earth, these ranges did not form by tectonic uplift; they were blasted into place by the impact that excavated Mare Imbrium (much like a billiard ball dropped into a tub of thick, viscous mud will leave a conspicuous circle of ridges around the point of impact). The Imbrium basin later filled up with lava that had the viscosity of hot maple syrup and therefore flowed very quickly, turning the mare basins into what were truly, for a time, liquid seas. (Early observers of the Moon were not so far off base after all when they called these features “seas.”)
Notice that the Alps have a smaller radius than the other three ranges. That’s because they are part of the original middle ring. The Caucasus, Apennines, and Carpathians form the outer ring. The highest mountain in this outer ring rises to over 18,000 feet (nearly 3½ miles—providing the best skiing in the solar system!). Remarkably, we are even able to catch glimpses of the inner ring. These are features in the form of isolated peaks and mountain ranges that poke up through the Imbrium plains and more-or-less form a circle around the center of Imbrium.
These are features in the form of isolated peaks and mountain ranges that poke up through the Imbrium plains and more or less form a circle around the center of Imbrium.
It is highly recommended that you get a copy of Sky and Telescope’s Field Map of the Moon, the very finest Moon map available for use at the telescope. It is available for $10.95 at www.skyandtelescope.com and on Amazon. All features mentioned in this blog will be keyed to the grid on the Field Map and will look like this: Plato: [NW/D9]
Courtesy of Gray Photography of Corpus Christi, Texas
Lunar photos: NASA / USGS / BMDO / LROC / ASU / DLR / LOLA / Moon Globe. Used by permission
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