• View of the Great Rift

    Craters Of The Moon

    National Monument & Preserve Idaho

Beyond the Moon

title graphic
Beyond the Moon...and back...to Craters of the Moon
Since the dawn of time, people have gazed far beyond the Moon. We have always been in awe of space and noticed that those bright lights in the sky at night would spin and twist but always remain in the same alignment. Some of the lights, however, were especially bright and seemed to wander wherever they pleased. Some nights they were visible, some nights they were not. We came to know them, not as stars at all, but as planets.

After we visited the Moon, our attention turned to other bodies in our solar system. Although we haven't sent an astronaut to another planet, we have sent unmanned spacecraft and they've sent back some amazing photos from Mars and Venus.

The question...how do we know what those photos show?

The answer once again...Craters of the Moon and the Snake River Plain in Idaho.

Scientists and geologists have determined that the volcanos on Mars and Venus resemble those on Earth much more closely than similar features on the Moon. So close, that the Snake River Plain and Craters of the Moon can be used as an analog to study the volcanos of not just the Moon, but of other bodies of the solar system as well.

This photo shows the same feature on all three planets.
Can you name it?

3 planets


Mars may not have always been the dry, cold planet it is now. Because of a thin atmosphere, it has been constantly bombarded by meteors.

Go back to Activity #1 and review volcanic features on the Earth and Moon if needed. Then, take a look at the images below to identify Martian volcanic features.

mars craters


Mars Image 1



Mars Image 2



Mars Image 3



Mars Image 4



Mars Image 5



Mars Image 6



Until the advent of radar imaging in the '60's, the surface of Venus had been hidden from view. The absence of water on Venus may explain why it has a dense atmosphere made up mostly of carbon dioxide. Radar is able to penetrate that thick layer. It reflects differently off smooth or rough areas producing a black and white image. Regions that are bright are considered to be rough and dark areas are considered to be smooth. Therefore when viewing images of Venus, one must realize that not all large lava flows will be black. It is important to look for other clues to volcanic features.

Examine the images below to identify Venusian volcanic features.



Venus Image 1



Venus Image 2



Venus Image 3



Venus Image 4



Venus Image 5



Venus Image 6



Venus Image 7


Bonus Images

If you haven't had enough, examine these Bonus Images. What's different about these images? They are NOT volcanic features but are still similar to features found on Earth. Check 'em out and make your best guess.

bonus image


Bonus Image 1

Bonus image


Bonus Image 2

Bonus image


Bonus Image 3

Bonus image


Bonus Image 4



So, you have trained much like NASA astronauts do; using resources ranging from early black and white photos of the Moon to sophisticated radar images of Venus. This brings us full circle back to Craters of the Moon. This incredible volcanic laboratory has been used to study features on Earth and the Moon and in the future will certainly be a valuable resource in explaining and identifying volcanic features in our solar system. Explore the web for more information and photos of the Snake River Plain, Craters of the Moon, and space exploration.

Did You Know?

Alan Shepard on the moon

In 1969 Apollo astronauts Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, Joe Engle and Eugene Cernan visited Craters of the Moon. They explored the lava landscape in order to learn the basics of volcanic geology in preparation for future trips to the moon. More...