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Sky & Telescope partnered with NASA to create a topographic Moon globe, color-coded to highlight dramatic variations in lunar elevations. Impact basins and deep craters show up clearly in blue (the South Pole-Aitken Basin is particularly striking), whereas high peaks and rugged terrain are colored white, red, and orange. The new globe has about 850 labeled features.
Sky & Telescope worked with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) team to create the base maps, which show details as small as 0.5 kilometer across. LOLA determines terrain altitudes by firing pulses of near-infrared light and then measuring the roundtrip travel time of the reflections; the accumulated data yield topographic maps.
This globe’s vivid display of topography makes it easy to pick out dozens of the huge impact basins that scar the Moon’s surface. On the lunar farside, for example, you can easily pick out the gigantic depressions like Hertzsprung, Korolev, Orientale, and Mare Moscoviense. And the farside’s vast South Pole–Aitken Basin, 2,500 km in diameter, randks among the very largest impact sites anywhere in the solar system.