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World's first high-definition lunar geologic atlas revealed
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World's first high-definition lunar geologic atlas revealed
by Simon Mansfield
Sydney, Australia (SPX) May 14, 2024

The first high-definition geologic atlas of the entire Moon, scaled at 1:2.5 million, was unveiled on April 21.

The atlas, available in Chinese and English, consists of the Geologic Atlas of the Lunar Globe and the Map Quadrangles of the Geologic Atlas of the Moon (including explanatory manual). The Geologic Atlas of the Lunar Globe includes the Geologic Map of the Moon, the Lithologic Map of the Moon, and the Tectonic Map of the Moon. The Map Quadrangles feature 30 standard-sized quadrangles.

Since the Apollo program in the 1960s, lunar exploration and scientific research have advanced significantly. However, lunar geological research still relies on maps developed during the Apollo era.

"With the accumulation of data and research results, these lunar geological maps may no longer meet future scientific research and lunar exploration needs," said LIU Jianzhong, a researcher from the Institute of Geochemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IGCAS) and editor-in-chief of the atlas.

The research and compilation program for the 1:2.5-million-scale geologic map of the Moon started in 2012, led by IGCAS, with contributions from Jilin University, Shandong University, the Institute of Geology, the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, the China University of Geosciences (Beijing), the Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and other organizations.

The research team studied and compiled lunar rocks, geological structures, and geological ages, independently developing technical specifications and standards for lunar geological mapping. Using this intellectual property (IP), they completed a series of geological maps of the Moon at 1:2.5-million-scale.

Based on data from China's Chang'e Project and other lunar geological information, this atlas provides basic information and a scientific reference for lunar exploration projects. It also fills a gap in China's research on lunar geological mapping, contributing to the study of the Moon's origin and evolution, and the evolution of the Solar System, according to LIU.

The team developed a new lunar time scale-"Three Eons and Six Periods"-based on lunar dynamic evolution history, providing a more objective depiction of lunar geological evolution than previous time scales.

"Classification schemes of structures and rock types were established based on the evolving importance of endogenic and exogenic processes, which are more clearly expressed in the evolution characteristics of lunar structures and rocks," said LIU.

The mapping team proposed a classification system of lunar impact basins and basin formation, established the evolutionary sequence for basins, and identified the features of basin formation. They also developed a new framework for terrestrial planetary evolution driven by both endogenic and exogenic dynamic geological processes.

The team identified and marked 12,341 impact craters, 81 impact basins, 17 types of rocks, and 14 types of structures, establishing a unified classification system for basin formation subclasses. The atlas also highlights special elements such as landing sites and elevation points.

The explanatory manual provides detailed information on the data used for mapping, principles for selecting map scales, content represented in maps, division of the "Three Eons and Six Periods" timescale, the classification system for structures and rocks, and the evolutionary history of the Moon.

This atlas set will support lunar scientific research, science education, landing site selection, lunar resource exploration, and trajectory planning for China's future lunar exploration projects.

The program was supported by the 13th Five-year Strategic Planning Program of IGCAS, the Key Frontier Sciences Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the National Science and Technology Infrastructure Program of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

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