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Almost every planet and moon in our solar system has impact craters. Even small bodies like asteroids have impact craters. Impacts can be catastrophic events with disastrous results, such as the impact 65 million years ago in the Yucatan Peninsula that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Though impacts on planets and moons can be devastating, much can be learned from the craters they create. Some of the things we can learn from impact craters are:

bullet Relative surface age of the planet or moon
bullet Absolute surface ages from the crater density
bullet Properties of the planetary surface
bullet Origin of the impacting object
bullet Size distribution of impacting objects
bullet Amount of surface erosion and/or atmospheric screening

There are very few impact craters on Earth that have not been eroded away by geologic or atmospheric processes. The Moon is another story. It has no atmosphere and is geologically dead. Because of this, the Moon is an excellent place to study impact craters.

The Moon was formed approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The currently accepted theory is that an object about the size of Mars slammed into Earth and the Moon formed from debris that was ripped from the Earth. For a great article about this theory, click here. Nova's recent production of "Origins" calls this the "Big Whack" theory. To see an animation, click here.

The early formation period of the solar system was a dangerous place. There were constant collisions of bodies, such as asteroids colliding on the Earth and Moon, and the other planets in the solar system. This era is known as the period of heavy bombardment.


Geologic processes have occurred on the Moon in the past, such as lava flows which can be seen today as maria. They are the dark areas seen from Earth, and may look like the "Woman in the Moon," the "Man in the Moon," or a rabbit. Lava stopped flowing on the Moon approximately 2 billion years ago.

When you have completed this exercise, you will have your own observing book filled with images of lunar craters named for women. You will also learn the properties of these features. Have fun and good luck!

  1. Check out the Web sites listed above to learn more about maps and coordinate systems. Be sure to read Planet Trek: Mapping New Worlds

  2. Print out the puzzle by clicking here. This is a .pdf file and you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to open this file. Here is a .jpg file if you are unable to open the .pdf file.

  3. To find the 28 names listed on the right side of the puzzle, use the coordinates provided at the bottom of the page. A couple of things to keep in mind...N=north; S=south; E=east; W=west. Also, if the number is 78.1E, for example, the letter will be found in the east column under 70; if the number is 0.3N, it will be found in the 0 row. Columns run from up to down; rows run from left to right.

    Example:  Using 0.3N, 78.1E. Find the point where 0 latitude (north/south) and 70 longitude (east in this case) intersect. You will find the first letter of her name is J. With J as your starting point, look up, down, and diagonally, and forward and backwards, to find her name. (The name is Jenkins.)

  4. Write the name next to the coordinates.

  5. Find the other 27 names in the word find puzzle and write the names next to the coordinates.

  6. Get your favorite highlighter and highlight the first letter of each name.

  7. Go to the Map-A-Planet Web site by clicking here. Then...

    Click on the picture of the Moon.


    Click on "Clementine 750nm Basemap."


    Click on the "Easy Version" Clickable Map.


    Print the map of the Moon.

  8. Using the information from your completed puzzle map, plot the approximate location of the 28 craters on the map of the Moon. Be sure to label each crater.

  9. Answer the 10 questions located here.

  10. Send an email to webmaster@womanastronomer.com and let me know how you did. I'm still beta-testing this, so your comments are greatly appreciated.




Updated 20.10.2022
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