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Terra (highlands)

(glossary entry; obsolete descriptor, plural Terrae)


In his initial description of the Moon as seen through the telescope, Galileo Galilei, without assuming they corresponded to the like-named features on Earth, noted the contrast between the Moon's bright "lands" and dark "seas". Van Langren adopted the Latin descriptors "Terra" and "Mare" on his celebrated nomenclature map. Although Hevelius did not use the term "Terra" it was reinstated (but with different individual feature names) by Riccioli.

An exploration and investigation of VAN LANGREN's Terra regions, with additional notes

The following is the list of VAN LANGREN's "terra" names as it appears in the -D- section on page 198 of E.A.Whitaker's Mapping and Naming the Moon. The locations of these terra regions can be seen on page 41 (Van Langren's map, the first real map of the moon!), and also on page 43 (the Strasbourg forgery of Van Langren's map).
  • TERRA DIGNITATIS (called Terra Fertilitatis and Terra Sanitatis by Riccioli) (Terra Sanitatis at north and Terra Fertilitatis at south).
  • TERRA HONORIS (called Terra Siccitatis by Riccioli) (was Van Langren's Terra Honoris the source of inspiration to give the name Sinus Honoris at the northwestern part of Mare Tranquillitatis?).
  • TERRA IUSTITIAE (called Terra Caloris by Riccioli).
  • TERRA LABORIS (called Terra Pruinae by Riccioli).
  • TERRA PACIS (called Terra Vigoris by Riccioli).
  • TERRA SAPIENTIAE (called Terra Vitae by Riccioli).
  • TERRA TEMPERANTIAE (called Terra Mannae by Riccioli).
  • TERRA VIRTUTIS (called Palus Nebularum and Palus Putredinis by Riccioli).

Other names:

  • LITTUS PHILIPPICUM (called Littus Eclipticum by Riccioli).
  • FRETUM PACIS (the pass between Mare Belgicum and Mare Langrenianum, aka Riccioli's Mare Tranquillitatis and Mare Fecunditatis) (north of Taruntius).

An exploration and investigation of RICCIOLI's Terra regions, with additional notes

The following is the list of RICCIOLI's "terra" names as it appears at the end of Appendix G in Whitaker (pages 216-217), followed by Whitaker's translations. The locations can be seen on Riccioli's map, (or the same map on page 61 in Whitaker's Mapping and Naming the Moon), and also on the greenish colored map in the Dutch book Op Ontdekking in het Maanland by A.J.M.Wanders (1949). - DannyCaes Jan 15, 2016
  • TERRA CALORIS (Land of Heat) (the southwestern section at Mare Humorum).
  • TERRA FERTILITATIS (Land of Fertility) (the southern section, up to the south pole) (note: the northern limit of Terra Fertilitatis seems to run just north of Thebit, Faye, Donati, Abenezra, Tacitus, and Catharina, this according to the greenish colored map in the Dutch book Op Ontdekking in het Maanland by A.J.M.Wanders) (was the Altai scarp the boundary between Terra Fertilitatis and Terra Vigoris?) (I wish Riccioli was still around to ask him...) (there's also a boundary running between Piccolomini and Rheita, and another one between Reimarus and Mare Australe).
  • TERRA GRANDINIS (Land of Hail) (the section between Mare Imbrium and Mare Frigoris, southeast of Plato).
  • TERRA MANNAE (Land of Manna) (the section between Mare Nectaris and Mare Fecunditatis).
  • TERRA NIVIUM (Land of Snows) (the section between Palus Putredinis and Mare Vaporum).
  • TERRA PRUINAE (Land of Frost) (the section between Sinus Roris and Mare Imbrium).
  • TERRA SANITATIS (Land of Healthiness) (the section southwest of Mare Tranquillitatis) (the southern limit of Terra Sanitatis seems to run just south of Arzachel, Airy, Geber, and Cyrillus, this according to the greenish colored map in the Dutch book Op Ontdekking in het Maanland by A.J.M.Wanders).
  • TERRA SICCITATIS (Land of Dryness) (the section north of Mare Frigoris, up to the north pole).
  • TERRA STERILITATIS (Land of Sterility) (the southwestern limb region, "beyond" Terra Caloris).
  • TERRA VIGORIS (Land of Vigour) (the east-outheastern section, "beyond" the four craters Langrenus, Vendelinus, Petavius, and Furnerius).
  • TERRA VITAE (Land of Life) (the northeastern section, north of Mare Crisium).

Some other names from Riccioli, listed in Whitaker's Appendix G:

  • INSULA VENTORUM (Island of Winds) (surrounding Kepler) (note: on the greenish colored map from the Dutch book Op Ontdekking in het Maanland by A.J.M.Wanders it surrounds Copernicus).
  • PENINSULA DELIRIORUM (Peninsula of Insanities) (probably Montes Riphaeus).
  • PENINSULA FULGURUM (Peninsula of Lightning) (between Turner and Ptolemaeus).
  • PENINSULA FULMINUM (Peninsula of Thunder) (northwest of Mare Humorum).
  • LITTUS ECLIPTICUM (Ecliptic Shore) (the northwestern limb region).

The boundaries of A.J.M.Wanders

In the exceptionally interesting Dutch moonbook Op Ontdekking in het Maanland by A.J.M.Wanders (1949), he (Wanders) included a greenish colored map of the moon in four quadrants. On this map, mare regions are light-green colored, major craters are sort of dark khaki-green colored. This map also shows Riccioli's Terra-names, and several of his other names such as peninsulae and paludes.
It is not known if Riccioli (during his days) described the boundaries of the regions which he mentioned as Terrae (there are no boundaries on Grimaldi's map on which Riccioli's nomenclature was included). Wanders (on his own map) depicted boundary-lines between the Terrae, as thin dotted lines. If those boundaries were the same as those of Riccioli shall always be an unanswered question. Anyway, it's interesting to try to describe the locations of these boundaries, and to add them in the list above.
- DannyCaes Jan 15, 2016

Fate of the Terra Names

  • In his influential book, Johann Schröter occasionally used Riccioli's terra names on his detail drawings, but did not include them on his overall nomenclature map.
  • Beer and Mädler provided a cross-reference between "modern" designations and the Riccioli terra names (and their counterparts on Hevelius' map) at the bottom of their page 36, but did not seem to recommend their continued use.
  • As Neison explains on page 87, most correspond to regions in which mountain ranges can be found, and the Hevelius-style names for those proved more popular. For example, Riccioli's "Terra Nivium" failed to replace Hevelius' "M. Apenninus" for the mountain chain, although Hevelius designation of "Romania" for the larger highland area did not survive.
  • Since they were not used by any of the three authorities she consulted, the terra names (with the exception of Birt's newly coined "Terra Photographica") were not included in Mary Blagg's Collated List, nor in her later Named Lunar Formations. Hence they have not only been in disuse since the early 1800's, but they were never part of the IAU lunar nomenclature.
  • However, the descriptor term was later adopted by the IAU for use on Venus to denote "extensive land masses."