Matt Jones

Mapping the Moon

I’ve always thought it an odd coincidence that the rotation of the Moon is synchronous with that of the Earth. It’s because of this that we only ever get to see one side of it. Pink Floyd famously referenced this with their album ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’, helping to perpetuate the mistaken idea that one side of the moon is in perpetual darkness. Well it’s kind of true, but of course, the side of darkness shifts as the Moon revolves round the Earth, and the Earth revolves round the Sun. For example, here’s a picture - taken on the Apollo 16 mission - of the far side of the moon when the side facing us is in darkness.

As for the side that we are familiar with, the side that we know more about than the ocean floor, The Full Moon Atlas offers highly detailed maps and geographic information of the thousands of craters and mountains that litter its surface. Sector G-3 contains features made famous in 2001: A Space Odyssey: at the bottom left is the crater Clavius, where the moon base resides, and just north is the distictive crater Tycho where the Monolith is discovered.

Scientists believe that if the Moon had not come into existence, either life would have not occurred on the Earth, or it would have taken a very different form. The most popular theory as to how the Moon formed is called the Giant Impact Theory, in which a Mars-like planet called Theia smashed into the young Earth, the resulting debris then - over hundreds of thousands of years - coalescing to form the new Earth and the Moon.

The Moon effects us and all life on the planet in more ways than are immediately obvious. For example, I’ve started a fitness regime of (almost) daily jogs on the nearby beach and it’s the Moon and its gravitational pull of the tides that dictates when I can go. Then there are the strange psychological effects some people believe take place during the full moon as well as the effect of the Moon’s phases on the human reproductive cycle.

Well, that’s enough Moon talk for one day; a quick glance out of the window and I see the tide is out. I’m off for a quick jog.