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What Is the Moon Made Of? Parts, Features & Components of the Moon

Updated on February 24, 2017
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Januaris is an astronomy graduate and has specialized in planetary astrophysics. He loves to study and write about the solar system.

What is the moon made of? This is a common question that I think has never gotten the right answer. Read on to find the right answer. But first, what exactly is the moon?

The moon, also known as the lunar, is a natural satellite that was formed about 4.5 billion years ago. It was formed from a collision that happened between the earth and another celestial body similar to the mars. It is the second brightest celestial object of the solar system, after the sun. It causes eclipses and affects the magnitude of ocean tides and the length of the day (Dr. Cathy Imhoff).

We have been seeing this celestial object for thousands of years, but the most amazing thing is that most of us do not know what it contains. In this article, I will discuss the parts, features, components of the moon. So get to know what the lunar is made of.

moon components
moon components | Source

In brief, what is the moon made of? Well, here are the components of the moon:

1. Soil

2. Rocks

3. Craters

4. Valleys

5. Water bodies

6. Mountains & highlands

7. Islands

8. Catena- chain of craters

9. Wrinkle ridges

10. Cape & headlands

11. Rilles- narrow channels

12. Escarpments

13. Crust, mantle & core

14. Lunar atmosphere

Lunar Soil - Major Feature of the Moon

This is not the type of the soil that we have on earth. It consists of silicon dioxide glass and resembles snow, and is dustier than the earth’s soil.

The NASA Apollo astronauts, who landed on the celestial body in 1970s, reported that the soil produced a pungent smell. The aroma of the soil was like that of the gunpowder while the scent was similar to that of the wet ash (NASA).

Moon Rocks

Surprisingly, the lunar rocks are identical to the rocks of the earth. A study carried out on these rocks showed that the rocks were different from other rocks found in all the other bodies of the solar system, expect the earth (NASA, Jagadheep D. Pandian).

They are made mainly of silica and alumina, and are believed to have formed from magma crystallization, shortly after the formation of the moon.

soil & rocks
soil & rocks | Source

Craters

Lunar craters are round basins that measure a few inches to hundreds of miles. They are the most common and well known features of the moon, and majority of them are impact types.

These types of craters are formed when comets, asteroids or meteoroids hit the surface of the moon. The largest crater is the Aitken basin, and is also the largest crater in the solar system. The large craters are named after famous scientists, scholars, artists and explorers (Boyle, Rebecca, MSN).

craters on the surface
craters on the surface | Source

Valleys

Valleys are other interesting features of the moon. The major lunar valleys are named after the nearby craters. The largest valley, Snellius, is 592 km in length.

Most of the valleys were formed from volcanic eruptions. The uneven lava solidification process that caused valleys of the earth is the same process believed to have caused valleys of the moon. But studies show that some valleys could have formed from the erosive effect of water (Lucey, Korotev, Randy L, Smith, David E, Zuber, Maria T, Neumann, Gregory A, Lemoine, Frank A, Jason Major).

Water Bodies - Parts of the Moon with Scientific Importance

There is no considerable amount of water in this celestial body, but in the beginning, about 30% of its surface was covered by water. The dark parts of the moon that we see with our naked eyes were actually the water bodies (Lakdawalla, Emily).

The parts were oceans, seas, lakes, bays and marsh, and are now filled with solidified lava. Scientists use the word "maria" to refer to them.

Lunar Highlands and Mountains

The light-colored parts of the moon that we see from the earth are actually mountains and highlands, and are scientifically known as "terrae". The highest point is about 18,100 meters above the lowest point. The largest mountain is called Karl Ludwig and is 70km in diameter.

The highlands consist of mountain ranges, and a good number of the ranges have diameters above 100km. The largest mountain range is 791km in diameter and is named after the astronomer- Lawrence Rook (Maria T, Lucey, Korotev, Jason Major, Randy L, Smith, David E, Zuber, Neumann, Gregory A, Lemoine, Frank A).

Islands

These are continental areas found in the parts that were covered by water. They are usually referred to as components of sterility, heat and liveliness.

From the far side to the near side of the lunar, there are many islands. Some major ones include: Islands of Winds, Land of Heat, Land of Fertility, Land of Dryness and Peninsula of Thunder (David E, Lucey, Jason Major, Korotev, Randy L, Smith, Maria T, Neumann, Gregory A, Lemoine, Frank A, Zuber).

Other Components

  • Catena- chain of craters
  • Wrinkle ridges
  • Cape and headlands
  • Lunar rilles- narrow channels
  • Escarpments

highlands
highlands | Source

Core, Mantle and Crust

Like other differentiated celestial bodies, the moon has a distinct crust, mantle and core. The inner core is made of a solid iron and is surrounded by a liquid iron, which forms the outer core.

The mantle consists of a partially molten layer and a zone of solidified magma. The crust was formed from lava (solidified magma that erupted from the mantle), and is 31 miles in thickness.

The core and mantle have thicknesses of 190 miles and 120 miles respectively (NASA, Wieczorek M).

Moon Atmosphere

The atmosphere of the lunar is almost a vacuum, and has a notable level of pressure that results from sputtering and outgassing.

Unlike the earth’s atmosphere, it does not have oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and carbon. The only elements that have been detected in it include: sodium, potassium, mercury, helium, argon, radon and polonium (Stern, S.A).

In Conclusion...

I hope that now you know what makes up the moon. More features, parts and components are likely to be discovered in the future as exploration continues. The last manned mission to this celestial body happened in 1972, which means that a lot of changes might have happened since then. So, let’s wait for the next manned exploration.

nasa astronaut & exploration equipment
nasa astronaut & exploration equipment | Source

References

  • Lakdawalla, Emily. "LCROSS Lunar Impactor Mission: "Yes, We Found Water!". planetary.org. The Planetary Society. 13 Apr, 2010.
  • Lucey, Korotev, Randy L. "Understanding the lunar surface and space-Moon interactions". Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry. Print. 30 Mar, 2006.
  • Smith, David E., Zuber, Maria T., Neumann, Gregory A., Lemoine, Frank G. "Topography of the Moon from the Clementine Lidar". adsabs.harvard.edu. Harvard University. 1 Jan, 1997.
  • Dr. Cathy Imhoff. “All About the Moon”. scholastic.com. Scholastic & Space Telescope Science Institute. 14 Feb, 2007.
  • Wieczorek M. "The constitution and structure of the lunar interior". Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry. 19 Aug, 2006.
  • Jagadheep D. Pandian. “What Kind of Rock is the Moon Made Of? (Intermediate)”. curious.astro.cornell.edu. Astronomy Department at Cornell University. 18 Jul, 2015.
  • NASA. "NASA Research Team Reveals Moon Has Earth-Like Core". nasa.gov. NASA. 6 Jan, 2011.
  • Jason Major. "Volcanoes Erupted 'Recently' on the Moon". news.discovery.com. Discovery News.14 Oct, 2014.
  • Boyle, Rebecca. "The moon has hundreds more craters than we thought". newscientist.com. News Scientist. 07 Jun, 2001.
  • NASA. "Rocks and Soils from the Moon". curator.jsc.nasa.gov. NASA. 6 Apr, 2010.
  • MSN. "Giant moon crater revealed in spectacular up-close photos". msnbc.msn.com. MSNBC. 6 Jan, 2012.

Were you aware of some of these things that make up the moon?

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© 2015 Januaris Saint Fores

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