Make a Moonquake Map 2.0!

When they explored the Moon, NASA’s Apollo astronauts left behind several instruments to collect geophysical data near each Apollo landing site.

Your challenge is to develop an app for the public that plots the seismic data these instruments transmitted back to Earth on an interactive 3-D digital moon globe.


Astronauts left several Passive Seismic Experiments (PSE) on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions. These instruments were designed to monitor the environment of each Apollo landing site for at least a year after the astronauts departed. Two different types of PSE packages were set up: Apollo 11 astronauts deployed Early Apollo Surface Experiments Package (EASEP) units pictured in Figure 1 below, and astronauts on the Apollo 12, 14, 15, and 16 missions deployed the more advanced Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) units shown in Figure 2. The seismometers on these devices detected moonquakes, impacts from meteorites, and impacts of man-made origin (also known as artificial impacts), and transmitted the data to Earth where it is still available for use today. Newly updated lunar seismic data curated in NASA’s Planetary Data System is available that includes date, time, latitude, longitude, magnitude, and depth, along with data descriptions and software to help users read the data. Numerous moonquakes occur during sunset and sunrise when the lunar surface temperature changes rapidly on either side of the day/night terminator line. Many of those moonquakes even occur on mapped fault lines.

Figure 1. Apollo 11 Passive Seismic Experiment, source: NASA

Figure 2. Labeled sketch of Apollo 12, 14, 15, and 16 Passive Seismic Experiments, source: NASA


Your challenge is to develop an app for the public that plots the seismic events detected by the EASEP and ALSEP instruments on an interactive 3-D digital moon globe. How will you visualize this data? Will the seismic events appear as pins or flashing objects in the locations specified in the data files? Seismic events cause ringing—you could visualize them as concentric torus shapes or circles. Will you develop images within a project web page, pop-up boxes on a digital lunar globe, a display on an interactive 3-D virtual model embedded in a web page, or a virtual reality experience set on the lunar surface where seismic events shake the camera’s point-of-view? Will you add topography or day/night cycles? Be creative!


You may (but are not required to) consider the following when creating your solution:

  • Remember that Space Apps judges cannot download executable files. The app you develop will run in a web browser, so the web page and associated code will be hosted on a server. (See the Resources section for suggested ways to search for information about free web hosting services.)
  • A possible plan of action to address this challenge could include the following steps:
  • Locate free code libraries for developing web apps that can present interactive 3-D models. (See the Resources section for suggested ways to search the Internet to locate free code libraries.)
  • After selecting a code library, create a web app that presents a sphere. The Resources section provides a link to the NASA Scientific Visualization Studio Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) Moon Kit, which provides images of the Moon in various sizes. On that web page, select a small size, such as 135 KB or 3.2 MB, from the Download Options drop down list. Map the image of the Moon on the sphere to create a lunar globe.
  • Use the links to the Apollo Seismic Event Catalog provided in the Resources section to access a directory of Comma Separated Value (CSV) files containing the moonquake data and a document that describes the moonquake catalog data format. The CSV files contain the date, time, latitude, and longitude. A few of the CSV files also contain magnitudes while others contain depths.
  • More advanced teams can consider including any or all of these desirable features:
  • Plotting time-series data of moonquakes.
  • Adding an adjustable rotation rate of the 3D digital globe.
  • Simulating sunrise and sunset to produce a day/night terminator line on the 3D digital globe. The day/night terminator might be simulated as a transiting single light source for the Sun that casts onto the 3D digital globe. (See the Resources section for suggested ways to search the Internet to locate free code libraries.)
  • Overlaying other data sets onto the 3D digital globe to depict features such as topography, fault lines along wrinkle ridges, or mineral composition observed from orbiting satellites. The Resources section lists useful resources to find these other data sets, as well as suggested ways to search the Internet to locate free code libraries to plot them. One way to plot these data might be to apply patches of images to the regions of the 3D globe that correspond to the latitudes and longitudes of those images.

    For data and resources related to this challenge, refer to the Resources tab at the top of the page. More resources may be added before the hackathon begins.

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