We View The Lunar Scenery In The Northern Hemisphere
From: To Mars Via The Moon
"Now, Professor," exclaimed M'Allister, jumping up with a shrug of the
shoulders, "you've given our friend John a considerable amount of
information on a wee bit dry subject, so, mayhap, you will now give us
something more interesting, and go on with the description of the
natural features of the moon down yonder."
"Yes do, please, Professor," said John; "M'Allister's own temperature is
evidently rising rapidly. Strange, isn't it, that a douche of cold facts
should make our friend so warm!"
"Well, not altogether," I replied laughingly; "there should always be a
healthy reaction after a cold douche. Much depends on the intensity of
the cold applied, and you know that if you touch extremely cold metal it
burns you like hot iron!"
"Professor," chimed in M'Allister, "maybe I was a bit warm, but really
your facts were not so cold as to make me hot."
"I'm glad to hear you say so," I answered.
"At all events, Professor," continued John, "whatever may be
M'Allister's actual temperature, I'm simply burning to know something
about that very striking formation with the steel-grey coloured
flooring which is situated not very far down from the North Pole, and a
little to the east of the central meridian."
"That," I said, "is a large walled plain called Plato, and, being on a
receding curve of the moon, it is seen from the earth foreshortened, so
that it appears to be elliptical in shape. It is about sixty miles in
diameter, and encloses an area of 2700 square miles, which is just about
the area of Lincolnshire. The general height of the mountain walls is
over 3600 feet; one mountain on the east is nearly 7500 feet high, and
others on the north and west are but little lower.
"You will notice that there are several breaks in the walls, and a large
one on the south-west; whilst on the inner slope of the mountains you
can see where a great landslide has occurred.
"It is rather singular, John, that in your first selection you have
chosen a formation which is one of the lunar mysteries!"
"Ah! Professor," said John, smiling, "I always was lucky! What is this
dreadful mystery?" he asked, with an assumed expression of awe.
"Oh, it's not a ghost story, John, nor anything to make your flesh
creep," I said rather grimly. "Usually the floor of a walled plain
becomes brighter as the sun rises higher and higher in the sky, but
Plato actually becomes darker under a high sun. By some it has been
thought that this is merely the effect of contrast with the very bright
surroundings of this formation, and that there is no actual darkening of
the tint. This is certainly not the case, for I have examined it
carefully myself with the telescope-shutting out all the bright
surroundings from the field of view, but the floor still appeared
"Others have suggested that the hot sun causes the growth of some kind
of vegetation all over the plain, the ripening of which makes the floor
darker in tint. As regards this suggestion, it is the fact that upon
Mars the old sea-beds are the places where vegetation is most luxuriant
at the present time; so, if Plato were at one time an enclosed sea, it
might not be impossible that vegetation in some low form might grow and
be nourished by the crude gaseous remains of a former atmosphere. A
greenish tint has occasionally been noticed by some observers, also
several light streaks across the floor, as well as several small
craterlets, which have been duly noted on the maps.
"But before we go any further we will have a better means of seeing, for
it is rather uncomfortable looking directly down upon the moon. So,
John, just lend a hand and we'll fetch one of those large mirrors."
This was done, and the mirror suspended with the upper part projecting
forward, so that when adjusted at the proper angle we could sit and look
straight into the mirror before us and see the reflection of all that
was below. We could still look down at the objects, if we wished to do
so, without shifting our position.
"There, John," I remarked, as we completed this arrangement, "I have
already arranged mirrors in the proper positions at the windows in the
forepart of the vessel, so that in future M'Allister will be able to see
what is nearly straight ahead of him. Now you will understand that I had
a scientific use for the mirrors I provided, and did not require them
merely to admire my beautiful face in as you suggested."
John laughed as I recalled his suggestion, saying, "All right,
Professor, I know you generally have a good reason for what you do."
Now, being more comfortably seated, I drew their attention to some small
isolated mountains on the area to the south of Plato, pointing out Pico,
an isolated mountain over 8000 feet in height, and another with three
peaks not very far from it. To the north-east of these, some distance
away, are the Teneriffe and Straight Ranges; also isolated groups.
"You will remember," I remarked, "that I said there were several
formations which seemed to me to owe their present appearance to the
action of water. Now look well at all this district before us-does it
not seem to bear out my contention? Those numerous small mountains and
isolated groups were not, I think, originally isolated, but connected
with the adjoining ranges. If we assume that Plato was once an enclosed
sea, or lake, which burst through the mountain walls-possibly owing to
their being weakened or broken by volcanic action-there would have been
a tremendous outrush of water, which must have carried away a good deal
of the softer material of these hills and mountains; whilst, in after
years, the continual wash of the waters, combined with aerial
denudation, would gradually have worn away all but the hardest parts of
"Most probably the whole of the surrounding area was also at some time a
sea, though volcanic action has since altered its surface conformation,
and in places it bears evidence of having been covered with lava. It is
not unusual on our world for volcanoes to burst up from under the sea,
so even the evidence of volcanic action does not, as some seem to think,
negative the possibility of water ever existing here; and it may not be
inappropriate to point out that our hydrographers have proved that our
ocean-beds are not always smooth, but are often diversified by high
hills and deep valleys."
M'Allister here interjected: "Professor, would you kindly tell us
something about that fine range of mountains over yonder, just to the
"Oh yes," I replied; "I was just about to mention that mountain range,
which is called the Alps after those in Switzerland; and that peak on
the front portion, just south of the great valley you see, is named Mont
Blanc, and is about 12,000 feet in height.
"You will notice a very large number of peaks in this and the other
neighbouring ranges-in fact, several thousands have been marked on our
"Cutting diagonally in a north-westerly direction, completely through
the Alps, you will notice a long and deep valley. This is known as the
'Great Alpine Valley,' and is over eighty miles long, and varies from
about three miles to six and a half miles in width. At the eastern end
it is some 11,000 feet deep, debouching on to the plain in several
comparatively narrow passes, whilst at its north-western extremity it is
very shallow, and emerges on to what is known as the Sea of Cold, which
covers an area of about 100,000 square miles. This valley seems to
afford another example of formation by the action of water.
"Amongst the three thousand peaks comprised in the Apennine range just
below the Alps, are several mountains of considerable altitude," I
remarked, pointing out Mount Huygens, nearly 20,000 feet high, Mount
Hadley, 15,000 feet, and Mount Woolf, 12,000 feet in height. "This range
curves round towards the east, and finishes with a fine ring-plain
called Eratosthenes-some thirty-seven miles in diameter, with a floor
depressed 8000 feet below the lunar surface. It encloses a central
mountain, and on the east wall there is one peak which rises 16,000 feet
above the floor.
"The ranges in this part of the moon are, perhaps, more like those on
our earth than others to be found on its surface, but much more wild and
"Eastward and northward of these ranges is the Sea of Showers, on which
there are several fine ring-mountains and walled plains-notably
Autolychus and Aristillus, two very perfect ring-mountains some 9000
"One of the most striking, on account of its size and situation, is that
large one which is called Archimedes, and is about fifty miles in
diameter; and you will notice that a rugged mass of mountains and high
hills extends from it to a distance of over a hundred miles on the
south. The floor of this walled plain is only about 600 feet below the
general level, and the mountain walls average about 4000 feet in height;
but there is at least one peak some 7000 feet high.
"You will see a little below and westward of Archimedes the commencement
of a system of large cracks or crevasses in the lunar surface which are
known as 'rills.' Many such systems are found in various parts of the
moon; some of the cracks are comparatively shallow, but, according to
Professor Langley, others are known to be at least eight miles deep, and
may be infinitely deeper, though I cannot say I understand how these
great depths have been arrived at. The length of the cracks varies from
a few miles to over three hundred miles, and from a few hundred yards to
some miles in width. They are attributed partly to volcanic action, but
mainly to the contraction of the crust of the lunar globe as it became
cold. Being so much smaller, the moon would cool much more rapidly than
the earth, and the disruptive effects would necessarily be greater."
John here touched my arm, and pointing to some mountains on the borders
of a large elongated oval area, close to the north-western terminator
where the sun was setting, asked me what they were. I explained that the
dark area was known as the Mare Crisium, or Sea of Conflicts, and is
possibly the deepest of the large lunar depressions.
"It is about 280 miles long from north to south, and 355 miles wide from
east to west, but, owing to its position, the width is seen from the
earth very much foreshortened, so that it really looks nearly twice as
long as it is wide. It contains an area of about 75,000 square miles,
thus being as large as the combined area of Scotland and Ireland, and
the five largest northern counties of England. It is surrounded by
mountains, some being over 11,000 feet high, reckoning from the dark
I drew their attention to Proclus-a ring-mountain on the eastern side
of this sea-which is about eighteen miles in diameter, and the second
brightest of the lunar formations. "From its neighbourhood several
bright streaks diverge in different directions, two extending a long way
across the dark area, and there is a longer one striking towards the
north and another towards the south at an angle of about 120 degrees
with each other.
"Seen through the telescope, these ray-streaks often appear very
brilliant under a high sun, looking in fact very like electric
search-lights; though I notice that the Rev. T.W. Webb has rather
curiously remarked that these particular streaks are not very easily
seen. Similar ray-streaks, many enormously longer than these, are found
in various parts of the lunar surface, but their exact nature and origin
has never yet been definitely settled. They only come into view when the
sun is beginning to be high up in the lunar sky, and the higher the sun,
the brighter the rays appear. Some of the shorter ones are ridges, but
this is evidently not the case with the others, for they cast no
shadows, as ridges would when the sun is low. Very many radiate from a
large ring-mountain called Tycho, in the southern hemisphere; and one of
them extends, with some breaks, nearly three thousand miles, passing
northward over the Sea of Serenity and finally disappearing on the
moon's north-western edge, or 'limb,' as it is termed.
"Professor Pickering assumes that these rays were caused by volcanic
dust or other light reflecting material emitted from a series of small
craters, and states that they are really made up of a series of short
rays placed or joined end to end. What I have observed myself seems to
bear out this latter statement; but the opinion I have formed as to
their origin differs from the theory of Professor Pickering. It seems to
me more probable that the volcanic dust was carried by a strong wind,
split up into two or more separate currents by a succession of peaks.
The wind currents swept clean the area over which they actually passed,
but dust fell or drifted in the lines between the currents. Exactly the
same thing may be observed in connection with snow-storms on our earth
when accompanied by a high wind. One part of the earth's surface will be
swept clean by the wind current, whilst a long line of the adjoining
surface is covered with a thick deposit of snow. I have also noticed
that where the ray-streaks impinge upon a mountain, or ring, there is an
appearance of spreading out and heaping up of the bright material very
much as snow would be spread out or drifted up in similar situations on
M'Allister here interrupted with the remark that, when we were
approaching the moon, he had particularly noticed that all appearance of
the face of the "man in the moon" had vanished. He said he had expected
to see that more distinctly as we got nearer.
"That would not be the case, M'Allister," I answered. "The resemblance
to a human face which we see from the earth is caused by the combined
effect of the bright and dusky areas on the lunar surface as seen from a
distance. The depressed dark areas, which we call seas, form the eyes,
nose, and mouth of the face, but when we had approached nearer to the
moon the details of the surface configuration stood out so much more
distinctly that they entirely obliterated the general effect of the
markings as seen from a distance."
"Professor," exclaimed John, "I have read that before telescopes were
invented it was thought by many that the markings seen on the moon were
really the features of our own earth reflected by the moon as in a
mirror. Is that correct?"
"Oh yes, John," I said. "It seems to have been a fairly general belief
in many parts of the world, and travellers tell us that, even within
very recent times, they have found in some of the more out-of-the-way
parts of the world that the same idea is still held by uneducated
Objects of interest being so numerous on the lunar surface we could only
give a comprehensive glance at many of them, and as we had so many
places to inspect, I now gave M'Allister the order to steer eastward.
He accordingly moved his switches and the Areonal quickly passed over
the Sea of Tranquillity, which has an area of 140,000 square miles; then
over the Sea of Vapours, a smaller area, parts of which have a dusky
green tint, from whence to the northward we had a view over the Sea of
Serenity, another deep depression nearly as large as the Sea of
Tranquillity, and much of which is a light green colour.
Then we came again to the Sea of Showers, a large "sea" having an area
of 340,000 square miles; and, still moving eastward, the great lunar
"Ocean of Storms" soon came into view. This covers a very large portion
of the eastern and north-eastern part of the moon's surface, and, with
all its bays and indentations, is estimated to be two million square
miles in extent.
I, however, again reminded them that, although these areas are termed
seas and oceans, no water exists there now, whatever may have been the
case in the long distant past. They are now only large depressions, and
not often level but intersected by hills, ridges, and even mountains.
As we passed along I called their particular attention to the
magnificent "Bay of Rainbows" on the north-eastern coast of the Sea of
Showers. "From Cape Laplace (9000 feet high) on the western extremity,
to Cape Heraclides (4000 feet high) on the eastern extremity, this great
bay is about 140 miles across, the depth of its curvature being over
eighty miles. It bears a very strong resemblance to many large bays on
our sea-coasts in various parts of the world, but I am not aware of any
such bay which is bordered by a mass of such lofty mountains as this is.
"We are looking at it now under a high sun, but when the sun has only
just risen sufficiently high to illuminate all those high mountains,
whilst the lower surroundings are still in shadow, the great bay
presents in the telescope the appearance of a brilliant luminous arch
springing from the lighted part of the moon and extending far out over
the dark part of the disc.
"Farther eastward, and lower down on the Ocean of Storms, you will
observe what is admitted by all to be the very brightest large formation
upon the moon, viz. Aristarchus-a ring-plain nearly thirty miles in
diameter, the floor of which is 5000 feet below the surface level. It
possesses a central mountain, very difficult to measure on account of
the general brightness, but believed to be about 1300 feet high.
Well-defined terraces are seen on the mountain walls enclosing the area,
and many external ridges are connected with the walls, especially to the
south. This formation is evidently covered with some substance which
reflects light to a greater extent than that on similar formations;
indeed it appears so bright that when the moon is new and the whole of
this part of the disc is dark, Aristarchus can still be seen with a
telescope, and this gave rise in the past to the idea that it was a
volcano in actual eruption. The explanation is, however, more prosaic,
because the mountain is really brought into view by earthshine on its
bright covering. When the moon is new the earth is almost fully lighted
on the side toward the moon, and sheds a faint light on the dark portion
of its disc, thus producing the phenomenon known as 'the old moon in the
new moon's arms.'
"Close to Aristarchus you will notice another ring-plain, which is
called Herodotus, about twenty-three miles in diameter, with a floor
7000 feet depressed; but this formation is not nearly so bright as its
neighbour. That high plateau between them is notable on account of the
T-shaped cleft in it, which runs into that other long zig-zag cleft (in
some parts two miles wide and 1600 feet in depth), whose direction
changes abruptly several times in its length of over one hundred miles.
"Turning from this towards the south-west you will see the most majestic
formation to be found upon the moon-the great ring-plain called
'Copernicus,' after the founder of our present system of astronomy. It
is about sixty miles in diameter, only roughly circular in shape, and as
it stands isolated upon the great ocean-bed it is most favourably
situated for observation. A large number of very high ridges, separated
by deep valleys, radiate from it in all directions to a distance of
hundreds of miles, presenting the appearance of a grand system of
buttresses to the mountain walls. These walls are high, and contain a
very large number of peaks which, when seen through the telescope as
they catch the sunlight, look like a string of bright pearls shining on
the border of the ring. A peak on one side is 12,000 feet in altitude,
on the other side is one only 1000 feet lower, whilst, rising from near
the central part of the floor, are no less than five small mountain
peaks. Owing to its size, brightness, and isolated position, this
splendid ring-mountain can be seen from the earth without the aid of a
glass; but even a field-glass will reveal much in this and similar
formations which cannot be detected by the unaided eye.
"The Rev. T.W. Webb has termed Tycho, in the southern hemisphere, 'the
Metropolitan Crater of the Moon,' but, in my opinion, Copernicus is,
owing to its position and grandeur, much more worthy of that dignity.
Tycho is fine in itself, but is not so favourably situated, being
surrounded by other formations somewhat in the same way as St. Paul's
Cathedral is surrounded and shut in, for the most part, by other and
"How much more should we appreciate the splendid proportions and majesty
of our Metropolitan Cathedral if we could view it as an isolated
building with a fine open space all around it!"
"I quite agree with that, Professor," remarked John, "and I have always
thought it a great pity that Sir Christopher Wren was not allowed to
carry out his original plan in this respect."
We were looking at the Carpathian range of mountains just to the
northward of Copernicus, when M'Allister touched my arm, exclaiming,
"Look, Professor, at all those tiny craters near the western side of
Copernicus. Why, there are so many of them that the ground for miles
round looks like a honeycomb, and in some places there are straight rows
"Yes," I said, "this part of the lunar surface is simply riddled with
tiny craterlets, and some of them are utilised as tests for the
definition of our telescopes. I have heard it remarked that a map of
this part of the moon presents almost the appearance of the froth on a
glass of stout when it has settled down, the very numerous tiny
air-bubbles of different sizes representing the craterlets; and really
it does bear such a resemblance.
"Almost due east of Copernicus is another bright and isolated ring-plain
named Kepler, after the celebrated astronomer. This is some twenty-two
miles in diameter and surrounded by very bright streaks of light,
extending in some directions over seventy miles, the whole nimbus of
light covering an area of nearly ten thousand square miles. These really
are streaks, not ridges, for, as you will see, nearly all the surface
surrounding this formation is flat and level.
"Some of the streaks from Kepler radiate in the direction of
Aristarchus, others towards Copernicus, cutting right through the rays
from those formations. From this it is gathered that Copernicus was
formed first, then Aristarchus, and Kepler still later on in the moon's
"The surrounding wall of Kepler is comparatively low with respect to
the lunar surface level, but the depth of the crater is nearly ten
thousand feet below the mountain peaks. The whole formation is covered
with the same light-reflecting material as the streaks which surround
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