What are Lunar Maria? (with photos)

Lunar maria are dark spots on the moon.

The lunar maria (singular: mare) are the dark spots of the moon. Maria means “seas” in Latin, and the lunar maria are named after their ocean appearance in contrast to the moon’s brighter spots. Despite the name, they are not water, just a darker type of rock. The Moon is completely devoid of any liquid moisture, although scientists believe there may be water molecules present in some locations. The first mission to land a man on the Moon, Apollo 11, landed on a smaller lunar mare, the Sea of ​​Tranquility, and the lower stage of the lunar module is still there today.

American astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission, which landed on a lunar mare.

The lunar mares formed between 3.16 and 4.2 billion years ago, as measured by radiometric dating, although crater counting methods suggest that some portions may have formed as recently as 1.2 billion years ago. They are flood basalts formed from massive ancient volcanic eruptions on the Moon, similar to the eruptions that caused mass extinctions on Earth 251 million years ago. Lunar Maria exists mainly on the near side of the Moon. The other side, which cannot be seen from Earth and has only been photographed by a few space probes, is almost free of maria.

There may be water molecules present at some locations on the moon.

The eruptions that caused the lunar seas got their source of heat from tidal heating: the heat caused by the moon’s slight curvature as it winds its way around Earth’s gravitational well. Over millions of years, this heat can build up underground until it’s enough to trigger a volcanic eruption. When these massive eruptions occurred, the resulting lava flows penetrated the lower parts of the Moon, many of which are impact basins. The South Pole-Aitken basin on the Moon, the largest known impact crater in the solar system, is only modestly covered by sea basalts.

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Most manned missions to the Moon have landed in lunar seas, due to their relative flatness compared to the lunar highlands. Rock samples were returned from both the lunar and maria plateaus, and they differ significantly in their content. Maria rocks have a higher iron content, which is partially responsible for their darker color.

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