The above photo of the moon was taken in August 2014 with a compact digital camera through the eyepiece of my telescope. The darker areas on the surface of the Moon are the Maria (meaning “seas” in Latin; singular: mare). These are mostly smooth, with relatively few craters compared to the rest of the Moon. The lighter areas are the terrae (this translates to “highland” from latin, and the singular is terra). The maria were formed from giant crater impacts after the Moon had formed, and so their surfaces are newer than those of the terrae. Therefore, there are less craters on them, because there has been less time for meteors to land there.
Here is a list of the features labelled A to H on the picture at the top of this page. The latin names are first, then the English names.
A: Mare Imbrium = Sea of Showers – The largest sea on the Moon apart from the Ocean of Storms (see below).
B: Mare Serenitatis = Sea of Serenity – A medium-sized sea to the east of the Mare Imbrium.
C: Mare Tranquillitatis = Sea of Tranquillity – A well-known sea on the east side of the Moon.
D: Oceanus Procellarum = Ocean of Storms – This is actually a sea, but it is so much larger than the other seas that it was named an ocean!
E: Mare Fecuditatis = Sea of Fertility – A small sea next to the Mare Tranquillitatis.
F: Tycho crater – Named after the great 16th century Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe.
G: Copernicus crater – Named after another 16th century astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus.
H: Mare Crisium = Sea of Crises – A very small sea right on the east edge of the Moon.
There are lots of other Maria and craters on the moon, but they are all small and there are so many that it would be impossible to name them all.
How the Moon Formed
The Moon was formed about 4.5 billion years ago, when even the Earth was very young! A giant rocky object about the size of Mars collided with the Earth and broke apart the Earth’s outer layers into smaller rocks. These small rocks then began orbiting the Earth, and slowly “stuck together”, making a bigger and bigger object which became the Moon! So the Moon is made of the same material as the ground that we walk on!
The “Other” Side of the Moon
You may be wondering, “What about the seas and craters on the other side of the Moon? Why isn’t there a picture of them?”. And the reason for this is that we cannot see the other side of the Moon from Earth. This is because the Moon is “tidally locked” in its orbit around the Earth. That means that the time it takes the Moon to orbit the Earth (27 days), is the same as it takes for the Moon to rotate once (27 days). Therefore, we always see the same face of the Moon. If you want to see the “other” side of the Moon, you would have to go into space!