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Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

← Activities for the Total Solar Eclipse

Lunar Topography

The Moon's terrain impacts our view of the total solar eclipse. Thanks to NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we know the topography of the Moon better than any other moon or planet in the Solar System! The peaks and valleys along the limb (silhouette edge) of the Moon affect the timing of totality, the shape of the Moon's shadow on Earth, and the location of phenomena such as the diamond ring effect. Using LRO data, we can predict these effects with better precision and accuracy than ever before. The following activities allow participants to model lunar topography.

The following two activities should be done together. Impact Craters models the general shape and appearance of impact craters (circular depressions, surrounded by raised rims, surrounded by ejecta). Splat! models the size (diameter) of the impact crater relative to the size (diameter) of the impactor in impact crater formation. It also models the destruction of the impactor during impact crater formation.

Making Impact Craters

making impact craters

While a bit messy, this activity beautifully demonstrates how impact craters form and how they can tell us about the composition and geologic history of the Moon.

  • Source: Lunar Planetary Institute
  • Target Audience: Ages 8 and up
  • Important Concepts:
  • Suggested Modifications: The LRO Outreach team uses a bottom layer of cat litter below the flour to simulate a lower rock unit and a golf ball and a ping pong ball for the balls of different masses. If you want to tie this to Earth, there is a Landsat activity about Finding Impact Craters with Landsat, which could be included
  • Have students make more than one impact. Explain that scientists often do a single experiment several times and take an average to get the most reliable result.

Kid Moon: Splat!


A great outdoor warm-weather activity, Kid Moon: Splat encourages participants to compare the size of impactors (water balloons) with the diameter of the craters they form (the splash zone).

  • Source: Lunar Planetary Institute
  • Target Audience: Ages 4 and up
  • Important Concepts: Models, projectiles, asteroids, craters, geologic history
Goddard Space Flight Center