(This observing exercise is geared for elementary, middle, and high school students.)


1. There are two distinct, large-scale types of lunar surface regions that can be seen. What are some of the characteristics that you see?


2. Maria (singular mare) are the dark, usually circular regions on the surface, and many of these can be seen with the naked eye. Galileo thought that these were bodies of water, and he gave them the Italian name for “sea”. What evidence do you see that these are not really oceans, seas, or lakes? How many maria do you see?


3. Besides the dark, rather smooth parts of the maria, describe any other features you see associated with them.


4. Craters are seen in many places on the lunar surface.

(a) Do you see any that have a central peak? In what kind of crater did you find these?

(b) Do you see more small or large craters?

(c) How do the crater rims appear – sharp or worn? What would cause these differences?

(d) Are there any craters on top of craters? If so, which crater was formed first? Why?


5. Given that the diameter of the Moon is 3500 km (2200 miles), can you estimate the diameter of a crater or maria?


6. Besides the maria and “regular” craters, there are many other types of lunar features. Which ones from the list below did you see? Briefly describe them and draw a picture, too.





Flooded craters

Secondary craters


7. Rilles look like cracks on the maria, and lava flowed through these. Does this remind you of a feature seen on the Earth? What is that feature. How are the ones on the Earth different from those on the Moon?


8. If you are not observing when the Moon is Full, then you will see the Terminator. It is the curved division separating the dark and sunlight sides.

(a) Look at some of the craters and shadows near the terminator. How do they look? Why?

(b) Do you see any bright spots in the dark region of the Moon? Why is the sunlight illuminating these features?

(c) Do you think it is better to study the features of the Moon when it is Full or when it is a Half Moon? Why?


9. If possible, examine the terrain of the landing site of Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, or 17 on the Moon. Some of these sites are in smooth maria and others are in rugged regions. Why would we want the astronauts to collect rocks from these different locations? What else is different between these regions?


Mission     Landing Site

Apollo 11        Sea of Tranquility

Apollo 12        Oceanus Procellarum

Apollo 14        Fra Mauro Highlands

Apollo 15        near Hadley Rille

Apollo 16        Descartes Highlands

Apollo 17        Taurus-Littrow Valley


James Sowell, 2013