Lunar Topography Student Worksheet

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When planet scientists think about how the surface of planets form, several methods present themselves. The surface of a planet might have big pieces called plates, which bump against each other, causing mountains and other geological features. This process is called plate tectonics and explains why the surface of the Earth looks the way it does. Vulcanism is also important on Earth. The Earth has a hot core, and occasionally magna from inside the Earth spews explosively out. The Hawaiian Islands exist because of vulcanoes. But many planets, including our Moon, have neither plate tectonics nor volcanoes. They are "Geologically Dead." Yet they have surface features. How can this be? In this activity we'll try to answer that question by studying our Moon's topography.

1. Find a pair of the white numbers on heavy black lines near each other. These are the heights in kilometers of the matching heavy black contours. Using this information, can you figure out how much vertical distance you have to climb to get from one light contour to the next?

2. Based on what you figured out above, how tall are the highest and lowest points on the map?

3. Can you find anything that looks like a mountain range we might see on Earth? What is similar or different about the mountains you see on the moon?

4. Unlike the Earth, the Moon does not have plates that move. Can you use this fact to explain your observation in question 3?

5. If mountains on the Moon can't form by plate tectonics, can you guess how they might form?

6. There are lots of craters on the Moon. How are these caused? Why do you think there are so many more than you see on the Earth? (Think about what you have learned about the Earth's atmosphere and about wind erosion.)

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