Chandrayaan 2’s first photo of the Moon shows where 3.8 billion-year old ‘lunar seas’ once used to exist

The first image of the Moon sent back to Earth by India's Chandrayaan 2 lander, VikramISRO

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Chandrayaan 2 just clicked its first photo of the Moon from a distance of 2,650 kilometers.
  • The picture was clicked by the mission lander, Vikram, aboard the Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft.
  • The image shows the Apollo craters and the Mare Orientale basin — where scientists believe a lunar sea used to exist 3 billion years ago.
India's mission to the Moon's South Pole, Chandrayaan 2, just sent back its first images of the Moon.


The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) captured the Moon and some of its primary landmarks like the Mare Orientale basin.

Scientists initially mistook these dark patches on the moon for ‘lunar seas', which is why they're called ‘Mare — latin for sea.'

In reality, the dark parts of the Moon's surface are basaltic plains formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. They come up darker than the rest of the lunar surface because they're reflective owing to their iron-rich composition.

The Mare Oreintale basin — one of 40 mare basins on the Moon — is a little different than others because relatively unflooded by the basalts.


But, that's not what makes it special — the 3.8 billion-year-old Mare Oreintale's is significant as it is lies in the fact that it's the freshest impact basin on the Moon. In other words, it's where the last asteroid hit the lunar surface.

Targeting the bulls eye

Measuring around 1,000 kilometers in diameter, the basin pans outward in a ring pattern — 3 rings to exact — the Mare Orientale basin looks like a bullseye on the lunar surface.
The three rings of the Mare Orientale taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance OrbiterNASA

NASA scientists have been studying the Mare Orientale basin to try and figure out how the Moon's different features work while hoping that it may provide clues into the Moon's immensely complex history.

Normally, with smaller craters than the Oreintale, the initial crater left behind is filled with information to help researchers. But in Mare Oreintale's case, none of the rings are the are from where the asteroid hit for the very first time.

"Instead, it appears that, in large impacts like the one that formed Orientale, the surface violently rebounds, obliterating signs of the initial impact," stated Maria Zuber, who led the study.

Another anomaly is that an asteroid impact normally reshuffled the surface to bring up material from the mantle up to the surface. But with Orientale, scientists found that the crater's surface has the same composition as the Moon's crust.

Brandon Johnson from Brown University simulated the event to show that the initial crater quickly collapses, material quickly then falls from the outside of the crater into the center and covers up any mantel rock that might back exposed.

The Apollo craters

The second landmark captured in the picture taken by Vikram, Chandrayaan 2's lander, are the Apollo craters. It's a double ringed crater that's named after NASA's Apollo missions to the Moon.

Individual craters within the Apollo basin have been named after the various astronauts on these missions are a tribute to their contribution to science. The seven most recent craters that were named were a homage to the fallen crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

See also:
Chandrayaan 2 enters Moon’s orbit — play-by-play of how it happened

Here’s why it’s going to take 7 weeks for Chandrayaan 2 to reach the Moon

Chandrayaan 2 will give India bragging rights even if it doesn’t find water
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