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Henry Jerome Sandler 


The purpose of this paper is to present to the layman 
a general survey of the surface formations to be found on the 
lunar crust,- and to discuss the theories that have been advanced 
pertaining to the origin of some of these features. Some of 
the work in this paper was done duringdctober , 1941, with the 
aid of a one -inch telescope. 


One of the most interesting and engrossing spectacles 
which man witnesses everyday is that heavenly body known as the 
moon. Scientists have studied the moon since man first divorced 
the natural phenomena from superstition and blind ritual. 
Physicists and mathematicians have long since investigated the 
laws of dynamics that govern its motion, and as a result, have 
produced formulae and equations which describe its position and 
the exact forces it exerts or are exerted upon it at any given 
time. Celestial cartographers have turned their attention to 
the moon ^nd have mapped every square mile of the 59/0 of its 
surface area that can be seen from the earth and is available 
for investigation. Our new telescopes have literally brought 
the moon into our own back.- yards. However, in spite of its close 
proximity and our ability to perceive clearly the various sur- 
face formations, men of science, after more than two thousand 
years of probing and speculating, are still unable to agree on 
a theory that will fully account for the origin of some of them. 

The lunar surface features may he classified generally 
as mountains, seas or maria, and craters. (See map on next page) 
The mountains that are found on the moon are quite comparable to 
those on our earth. There are about ten ranges, some of which 
are 400 miles long and attain altitudes of nearly 30,000 feet. 
The seas are vast plains, which give rise to the dark patches 
seen on the moon by the naked eye, and enable the imagination to 
fabricate the many various popular beliefs and fantasies concer- 





t \i v Mountains 

Sj5) Craters 


ning the moon, the mountains and maria no doubt orginated in a 
similar manner to the corresponding features on the earth, i.e., 
through shrinkage of the crust and weathering. 

The most noticeable lineaments on the lunar surface 
area, when viewed through a telescope, are the craters. Over 
35,000 of these formations have been recorded. The craters range 
in size from several which ire 150 miles in diameter (an area 
greater than that of t:& otate of Maryland) down to the smallest 
dot visible in our largest telescope, about one-tenth of a mile 
across. There are many speculative theories as to the origin of 
these indentations on the lunar topography. The main hypotheses 
which try to explain their presence are those which involve vol- 
canic action and the meteorlogical bombardment of the moon's 
surface. It is almost impossible to define their origin by draw- 
ing analogies between the craters that are seen on the moon and 
those that are found on the earth because of the vast differences 
that exist between the two bodies. 

Even if we take into sccount the smaller gravitational 
pull of the moon, and also the fact that it has no atmosphere to 
offer protective resistance to foreign bodies, we still cannot 
reconcile the origin of the lunar craters to similar structures 
on the earth. If we say that these lineaments were caused by 
the striking of meteors, as some scientists contend, we can re- 
fute that by showing that because of the proximity of the earth 
it too would have undergone the same shower. Yet the largest 
cruter to be found on the earth is the Coon ^>utte Crater in Ari- 
zona, which measures a mere three -qua rters of a mils in diameter. 


The enormous size of some of the crater and the fact that there 
is very little evidence of lava flow tends to cast doubt on the 
volcanic eruption theory. 

Perhaps, if new forces ar found to t>e acting on the 
moon, or if the other side of the moon is ever ever seen, or 
if new discoveries are made as to the actual composition of the 
lunar surface, someday a timeless mystery of our nearest heaven- 
ly neighbor will be solved. 


Draper, Arthur L. and Lockwood, Marian, The Story of Astronomy , 
Dial Press, New York, 1939. 

Duncan, John Charles, Astronomy , Harper & Bros. , New York, 1930. 

Wright, Dr. F. S. , "The Surface Features of the Moon," Carnegie 
Institution of Washington, Supplementary Publications 
#10. , 1935.