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Astrogeology releases a new map of the Moon

April 20, 2020

The USGS Astrogeology Science Center (ASC), in collaboration with NASA and the Lunar and Planetary Institute, has released a new definitive geologic map of the Moon!

“The NASA-funded Unified Geologic Map of the Moon combines six Apollo-era regional maps into one consistent global stratigraphy and set of surface features,” said Corey Fortezzo, geologist and lead author of the map. “This product provides a framework for new scientific studies and helps connect local surface exploration results to the rest of the Moon.”


Unified Geologic Map of the Moon
Orthographic projections of the "Unified Geologic Map of the Moon" showing the geology of the Moon’s near side (left) and far side (right) with shaded topography from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA). 


Not only can the new map serve as a blueprint of the Moon’s surface for the next human mission to the Moon, but it also serves as a useful resource for the international scientific community, educators, and the general public interested in lunar geology. “While this release includes a PDF of the unified map for printing on a large-format plotter, the real benefit is the release of the digital GIS (Geographic Information System) database to support further scientific study at multiple scales,” said USGS Astrogeology cartographer Trent Hare.

Astrogeology’s geologists and cartographers used updated information from recent missions to the Moon, such as JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s) SELENE (Selenological and Engineering Explorer a.k.a. Kaguya) Terrain Camera stereo observations as the base for the equatorial region. NASA’s Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) data were used for the north and south poles. These datasets provided updated adjustments and further alignment with the existing Apollo-era maps, while preserving, where possible, previous observations and interpretations.

Making a map like this is not easy. “It was a huge effort for our team to complete this new map and make it seamless,” said Astrogeology Director Justin Hagerty. “Much of the historical mapping was performed by various groups and at regional scales. Slightly different methods were used, so that maps of the same feature that had been mapped by different groups would not match.”

Challenges of the decade-long process included the fact that the Apollo-era lunar maps were only available in paper format and early digitized versions of the paper maps did not align with updated and more accurate images. The original six maps were digitally renovated and reconciled to the newer datasets. Despite the new digital format, there were still boundary issues such as differences in geologic units, unit names, unit descriptions, age relationships, and surface features were not consistently mapped. Geologists developed a unifying stratigraphy for the Moon, and units were fit into this new system. Additionally, Astrogeology’s mapping team identified surface features and mapped them to create a global catalog of the features at the map scale (1:5,000,000) For more technical information about the map, please see this abstract or head straight to the download page Unified Geologic Map of the Moon.

Find the press release here:


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