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Mapped: The Geology of the Moon in Astronomical Detail

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View the full resolution version of this map (47mb)

Geology of the Moon Map

View the full resolution version of this map (47mb)

Mapped: The Geology of the Moon in Astronomical Detail

If you were to land on the Moon, where would you go?

Today’s post is the incredible Unified Geologic Map of the Moon from the USGS, which combines information from six regional lunar maps created during the Apollo era, as well as recent spacecraft observations.

Feet on the Ground, Head in the Sky

Since the beginning of humankind, the Moon has captured our collective imagination. It is one of the few celestial bodies visible to the naked eye from Earth. Over time different cultures wrapped the Moon in their own myths. To the Egyptians it was the god Thoth, to the Greeks, the goddess Artemis, and to the Hindus, Chandra.

Thoth was portrayed as a wise counselor who solved disputes and invented writing and the 365-day calendar. A headdress with a lunar disk sitting atop a crescent moon denoted Thoth as the arbiter of times and seasons.

Artemis was the twin sister of the sun god Apollo, and in Greek mythology she presided over childbirth, fertility, and the hunt. Just like her brother that illuminated the day, she was referred to as the torch bringer during the dark of night.

Chandra means the “Moon” in Sanskrit, Hindi, and other Indian languages. According to one Hindu legend, Ganesha—an elephant-headed deity—was returning home on a full moon night after a feast. On the journey, a snake crossed his pathway, frightening his horse. An overstuffed Ganesha fell to the ground on his stomach, vomiting out his dinner. On observing this, Chandra laughed, causing Ganesha to lose his temper. He broke off one of his tusks and hurled it toward the Moon, cursing him so that he would never be whole again. This legend describes the Moon’s waxing and waning including the big crater on the Moon, visible from Earth.

Such lunar myths have waned as technology has evolved, removing the mystery of the Moon but also opening up scientific debate.

Celestial Evolution: Two Theories

The pot marks on the Moon can be easily seen from the Earth’s surface with the naked eye, and it has led to numerous theories as to the history of the Moon. Recent scientific study brings forward two primary ideas.

One opinion of those who have studied the Moon is that it was once a liquid mass, and that its craters represent widespread and prolonged volcanic activity, when the gases and lava of the heated interior exploded to the surface.

However, there is another explanation for these lunar craters. According to G. K. Gilbert, of the USGS, the Moon was formed by the joining of a ring of meteorites which once encircled the Earth, and after the formation of the lunar sphere, the impact of meteors produced “craters” instead of arising from volcanic activity.

Either way, mapping the current contours of the lunar landscape will guide future human missions to the Moon by revealing regions that may be rich in useful resources or areas that need more detailed mapping to land a spacecraft safely .

Lay of the Land: Reading the Contours of the Moon

This map is a 1:5,000,000-scale geologic map built from six separate digital maps. The goal was to create a resource for science research and analysis to support future geologic mapping efforts.

Mapping purposes divide the Moon into the near side and far side. The far side of the Moon is the side that always faces away from the Earth, while the near side faces towards the Earth.

The most visible topographic feature is the giant far side South Pole-Aitken basin, which possesses the lowest elevations of the Moon. The highest elevations are found just to the northeast of this basin. Other large impact basins, such as the Maria Imbrium, Serenitatis, Crisium, Smythii, and Orientale, also have low elevations and elevated rims.

Shapes of Craters

The colors on the map help to define regional features while also highlighting consistent patterns across the lunar surface. Each one of these regions hosts the potential for resources.

Lunar Resources

Only further study will resolve the evolution of the Moon, but it is clear that there are resources earthlings can exploit. Hydrogen, oxygen, silicon, iron, magnesium, calcium, aluminum, manganese, and titanium are some of the metals and minerals on the Moon.

Interestingly, oxygen is the most abundant element on the Moon. It’s a primary component found in rocks, and this oxygen can be converted to a breathable gas with current technology. A more practical question would be how to best power this process.

Lunar soil is the easiest to mine, it can provide protection from radiation and meteoroids as material for construction. Ice can provide water for radiation shielding, life support, oxygen, and rocket propellant feed stock. Compounds from permanently shadowed craters could provide methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide.

This is just the beginning—as more missions are sent to the Moon, there is more to discover.

Space Faring Humans

NASA plans to land astronauts—one female, one male—to the Moon by 2024 as part of the Artemis 3 mission, and after that, about once each year. It’s the beginning of an unfulfilled promise to make humans a space-faring civilization.

The Moon is just the beginning…the skills learned to map Near-Earth Objects will be the foundation for further exploration and discovery of the universe.

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Mapped: How the Energy Crisis Impacts Global Food Insecurity

Exploring global food insecurity through the lens of the energy crisis and rising food costs.

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Mapped: How the Energy Crisis Impacts Global Food Insecurity

Food insecurity occurs when an individual does not have access to the adequate quantity or quality of food they require to meet their biological needs.

A disruption in supply chains, rising input costs, and inadequate weather can all have a direct impact on global food security, all of which have been in play in recent years.

Using data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, let’s do a deep dive into food insecurity around the world and discuss how rising energy costs can drive up food prices, exacerbating food insecurity.

The State of Global Food Insecurity

The latest data from the FAO marks 29.3% of the entire world population to be moderately or severely food insecure, with 40% of this population experiencing severe food insecurity. Based on FAO definitions, here is what that means:

  • A moderately food insecure person experiences uncertainty about their ability to obtain food, unwillingly compromising the quantity and/or the quality of food they consume
  • A severely food insecure person lacks access to food, enduring prolonged periods of time without eating

The African continent bears most of the burden when it comes to global food insecurity, with 14 out of the top 15 most food-insecure countries being in this region. The data also paints a relatively grim picture for Middle Eastern and South American countries, while North America and Western Europe have moderate or severe food insecurity marked below 10%.

CountryPrevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity (3-year average, 2019-2021)
🇨🇬 Congo88.7%
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone 86.7%
🇸🇸 South Sudan 86.4%
🇭🇹 Haiti 82.5%
🇨🇫 Central African Republic 81.3%
🇲🇼 Malawi 81.3%
🇱🇷 Liberia 80.6%

It’s difficult to pinpoint the prevalence of African food insecurity to just one cause. Climate change, conflict in Africa, government debt, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have all contributed in different ways to worsening food security conditions in this region.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict, for instance, led to European aid for African countries to drop substantially, while grain exports from both Ukraine and Russia fell as ports in the Black Sea experienced disruptions. The war has also caused a disruption in fertilizer supplies, with Russia being the top exporter of fertilizer, along with a substantial rise in farming input costs as energy prices soared in 2022.

How Energy Prices Trickle Down to Food Prices

Food prices have risen substantially in the last year due to surging energy prices and supply chain disruptions. The FAO food price index, which measures the change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, saw a 14.3% increase between 2021 and 2022.

Index% change in price since 2021
General Food Price Index 14.3%
Meat 10.4%
Dairy 19.6%
Cereals 17.9%
Vegetable oils 13.9%
Sugar4.7%

As seen above, individual commodity indices followed this trend, with dairy and cereal prices bearing the brunt.

Energy costs trickle down to food prices in a variety of ways. The simple correlation between historic oil and corn prices, seen below, can paint a telling picture.

What’s interesting is that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that the effects of the 2022 energy cost crisis may not have even fully materialized yet.

According to their research, a 1% increase in fertilizer prices can boost food commodity prices by 0.45% within four quarters. With natural gas, a major input for nitrogen-based fertilizer, being 150% more expensive in 2022 than in 2021, this may be a cause for concern in the upcoming months.

Relatedly, a rise in fertilizer costs is also connected to harvest levels in upcoming seasons. Reduced use of fertilizer as a result of high costs can lead to diminished crop yields, and the IMF predicts that a 1% drop in global harvests bumps food commodity prices by 8.5%, potentially indicating that the worst of it for food prices—and for global food security—is still yet to come.

Looking Ahead to 2023

Food security is a fundamental aspect of human existence and plays an important role in the steady economic growth and prosperity of nations. While we may be tempted to believe that we’re heading in the right direction on a global scale, the FAO paints a different picture, specifically for Africa.

2030 predictions for global undernourishment forecast an 11.5% increase in hunger in Africa, while world hunger at large is predicted to decrease. With global inflation looming high and food prices still under the influence of 2022 events, addressing hunger in Africa is as crucial as ever to improve the overall well-being and development of the continent.

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What is the FIFA World Cup Trophy Made Of?

This infographic explores the history and composition of the FIFA World Cup trophy ahead of the 22nd edition of the competition.

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What is the FIFA World Cup Trophy Made Of?

Soccer is one of the world’s most popular sports with approximately 3.5 billion fans globally.

It was in Uruguay, in 1930, that the very first FIFA World Cup was held. It has occurred once every four years since then (except in 1942 and 1946 due to World War II).

This year, 92 years after its start, the 22nd FIFA World Cup tournament is scheduled to take place in Qatar. The highly anticipated event involves 32 national teams that will compete to win one of the most prestigious titles and a historic trophy.

So, what is the coveted FIFA World Cup trophy made up of?

The History and Composition of FIFA World Cup Trophies

Since its debut in the first FIFA World Cup tournament, in 1930, there have been two iterations of the World Cup trophy. Both trophies were made with a combination of metals and rare stones.

Until 1970, the Jules Rimet Trophy, designed by the French sculptor Abel Lafleur, glorified the winning team. A redesigned version of the trophy by Silvio Gazzaniga replaced the original in the 1974 FIFA World Cup tournament.

The Jules Rimet Trophy

Commonly called the Coupe du Monde (French for World Cup), the Jules Rimet trophy was officially renamed in 1946, honoring the then FIFA president Jules Rimet on his 25th Anniversary in office.

The trophy had a height of 35cm and weighed 3.8kg. It was made of gold-plated sterling silver and featured Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory, holding an octagonal cup. The base of the trophy was made from a semi-precious stone called lapis lazuli. Golden plates were attached to each side of the base and they held the names of the winning teams from 1930 to 1970.

Since the beginning, it was agreed that the first team to win the World Cup three times would get to permanently keep the trophy. In 1970, Brazil marked its third victory by beating Italy in the finals and took the Jules Rimet trophy home.

However, in 1983, the trophy that even survived World War 2 was stolen from the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) headquarters in Rio de Janeiro and was never found. The only original piece of the Jules Rimet trophy in existence is the base that was replaced in 1954 to accommodate more winning-team names.

The FIFA World Cup Trophy

After handing over Abel Lafleur’s original trophy to Brazil in 1970, FIFA held a design competition in search of a new World Cup trophy. The association received 53 submissions from seven countries and Silvio Gazzaniga’s design of two human figures holding the Earth in their hands won the competition.

This new trophy is 36.5cm tall and weighs 6.17kg. It is made from 5kg of 18-karat gold and two layers of malachite. The base of the trophy is 13cm in diameter and the names of all winning teams since 1974 along with the years are engraved on it. This current iteration of the World Cup trophy can accommodate the names of 17 winning countries and years.

Unlike the Jules Rimet trophy, the current iteration of the trophy will not be handed over to a team definitively. It permanently belongs to the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) and is secured at its Zurich headquarters.

However, a gold-plated bronze replica of the cup referred to as the World Cup Winners’ Trophy is given to every winning team.

Battle Royal: The 2022 FIFA World Cup

The 2022 FIFA World Cup tournament is long awaited by billions of passionate soccer fans.

It could be the final opportunity for two of the world’s best players—Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi—to lift the World Cup trophy as they supposedly plan to retire from international games before the next World Cup.

This year, will your favorite national team be able to pose for a victory picture holding the golden trophy in their hands?

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