The Cartography of the Solar System – The Moon

Now that I’m deep down in Artemis (I’ve mentioned it in another post) I realised that whenever I read a book set in one of the Solar System’s celestial bodies I regularly check the places mentioned in the novels on the cartography (if available) or on Wikipedia if not. I don’t do it because I try to find out if the writer has actually done his/her homework (even though this is an interesting detail per se), but because I need to mentally “map” where things happen. I have in time identified a few resources, which you may also find useful (both as a reader and a writer).  This week I’ll share the ones Moon-related, others to follow.

There is actually plenty of stuff out there when it comes to our beloved satellite. One of the most recent, and accurate, are two full renditions published by USGS (download them here in high resolution).

From the page description: “The first is based on data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Wide Angle Camera and the second from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, both instruments on board of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft. […] The image used for the base of this map represents more than 6.5 billion measurements gathered between July 2009 and July 2013, adjusted for consistency in the coordinate system described below, and then converted to lunar radi. […] The Mercator projection is used between latitudes ±57°, with a central meridian atlongitude and latitude equal to the nominal scale at 0°. The Polar Stereographic projection is used for the regions north of the +55° parallel and south of the –55° parallel, with a central meridian set for both at 0° and a latitude of true scale at +90° and -90°, respectively. All named features greater than 85 km in diameter or length were included unless they were not visible on the map. Some selected well-known features less than 85 km in size were also included.” You may also want to read something more about how the mapping was carried out – see this article for a quite interesting discussion.

NASA actually allows users to search LRO data and download portion of the Moon cartography. For more, have a look at this.

NASA apart, there are others websites of interest.

One is Space Ref/Moon, which lists updated news and resources of various type, including the ones collected by other space agencies around the world, which have made a fantastic job on their own.

You can find the details there, but one needs to be mentioned – namely, the maps China released in February 2012, which were compiled using many high-resolution images observed by the Stereo Camera of the lunar probe Chang’e-2 spacecraft during a seven month period between October 2010 and May 2011.

Finally, Moonviews, the official website of the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) is still worth a visit even though it’s no longer updated and only functions as an archive.


  1. sjhigbee

    Another wonderful and informative post, Steph. I hope you are enjoying Artemis!

    1. Steph P. Bianchini (Post author)

      Many thanks Sarah, and yes – I love the book 🙂

  2. ccyager

    When I read Andy Weir’s “The Martian” and KSR’s Mars trilogy, I spent hours studying the topography of Mars and photos sent back from the Rovers. It was really fascinating. I cannot imagine not seeking out resources that are available in order to enhance and enrich the reading experience. I’ve actually worked on a “walking tour” of Vienna, Austria to go with my novel “Perceval’s Secret,” that I’d planned to send to people who contributed at a certain level to my Kickstarter campaign several years ago. Now I’m thinking maybe I should finish it and put it up on my blog!

    1. Steph P. Bianchini (Post author)

      What an excellent idea! As a SF writer I’d have a problem though doing the same – apart from the Solar System, we don’t have this kind of info for exoplanets. We can only speculate and make informed guess (or sort of). Thanks. 🙂

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Maps of the Moon have always fascinated me: it might be due to the “proximity” of our satellite, that makes it feel almost like another country one could reach easily, so that studying its territory is necessary to find one’s way once there 🙂
    Thanks for sharing! (and I look forward to your review of Artemis!)

    1. Steph P. Bianchini (Post author)

      You’re absolutely right. I’ve even printed out the two above-mentioned maps in a laminated format and put them in my office. It’s not uncommon that people enter and ask “I thought you were teaching stats…?” 😀


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: