All you Know about the first-ever Digital Geological Map of Moon

By Stuti Mishra|Updated : April 29th, 2020

Do you ever think of what kind of rocks make up the bright and dark splotches on the moon? Do you believe with all the images already available for those bright-dark spots on the moon? Curious to know the reality? Here is the new authoritative new map for you by USGS.

United States Geological Survey (USGS), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) and the Lunar Planetary Institute have virtually released first-ever digital, unified, global, a geological map of the moon. It is a new authoritative map that will help explain the 4.5 billion-year-old history of our nearest neighbour in the space.

What is Digital Geological Map of Moon?

Digital Geological Map of Moon released by USGS, NASA and LGI can be understood by the given points:

  • The map is one of its kind and is the first digital geological map of the moon in the world.
  • Digital Geological Map of Moon is named as “Unified Geologic Map of the Moon”.
  • It will serve as a blueprint for future human missions and a source of research and analysis for the educators and the general public interested in lunar geology.
  • The map is a ‘seamless, globally consistent, 1:5,000,000-scale geologic map’.

Detail about this new mapping

The moon has always piqued the interest of humanity. It is the closest cosmic body to Earth through which space discovery can be attempted and documented. Here is all you need to know about this discovery:

Where can it be found?

  • Unified Geologic Map of the Moon is a digital release which is only available in GIS and PDF formats.
  • The map can be downloaded from the Unified Geologic Map of the Moon website.

How a new digital map was created?

  • To create the new digital map, scientists used information from six Apollo-era regional maps along with updated information from recent satellite missions to the moon.
  • The existing historical maps were redrawn to align them with the modern data sets, thus preserving previous observations and interpretations.
  • Along with merging new and old data, USGS researchers also developed a unified description of the stratigraphy, or rock layers of the moon.
  • This resolved issues from previous maps where rock names, descriptions and ages were inconsistent.
  • The researchers built on the original digital renovation of the six 1:5,000,000 scale lunar geologic maps comprising of the near, central far, east, west, north and south sides that was released in 2013.
  • The final map framed consists of 43 geologic units across the entire lunar surface, broken down into groups based on characteristics like materials of craters, basins, terra, plains and volcanic units.

Why a new digital map was needed?

  • Unified Geologic Map of the Moon is a culmination of a decades-long project. It provides vital information for new scientific studies by connecting the exploration of specific sites on the moon with the rest of the lunar surface.
  • Data from recent satellite missions to the moon and resources data from NASA’s Apollo Missions were used to come up with the map. It can help NASA in planning for future missions.
  • It will help in future explorations of space and Lunar south pole. 

Digital map and Lunar South Pole exploration

The moon’s South Pole is the most interesting area of exploration in the present era because the area is much larger than the North Pole and there could be a possibility of the presence of water in these permanently shadowed areas. Further, the South Pole region also contains the fossil record of the early Solar System.

Chandrayaan 2 of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is an active mission that targets the Lunar South Pole for exploration.

Like Chandrayan, other moon missions such as Artemis (human spaceflight programme), that is a crewed exploration programme of Nasa, plan to send humans to the Lunar South Pole by 2024 and in due course of time, establish a permanent presence on the moon.

These present and future moon missions’ success can be further helped by the digital map of the moon.

About United States Geological Survey (USGS)

The U.S. Geological Survey is the largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency of the United States. It collects, monitors, analyses, and provides scientific understanding and data of natural resource conditions, issues, and problems. The current motto of the USGS is "science for a changing world".

Headquarter: Reston, Virginia

Founded: 3 March 1879

Parent organization: United States Department of the Interior

About the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

Headquarter: Washington, D.C., United States

Founder: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Founded: 29 July 1958, United States

For the first time since the space exploration started, the entire lunar surface has been completely mapped and uniformly classified. The lunar map, called the 'Unified Geologic Map of the Moon,' will serve as the definitive geological blueprint of the moon's surface for future human missions and will be invaluable for the international scientific community, educators and the public at large.

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