Good morning, everyone.
Today I’m going to share some excellent astronomical porn with you all, so please try to contain your excitement.
On November 10, 2011, The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) made a low-altitude pass 42 miles to the east of Aristarchus crater, one of the brightest features on the Moon, and took an amazing panoramic image of the western wall of the crater. The LRO was flying at just over 16 miles above the lunar surface at the time, so the image has incredible detail.
Aristarchus crater is a young impact crater, formed around 450 million years ago, which is just yesterday if you consider the average age of the other craters on the moon, most of which were formed around 4 billion years ago during the Late Heavy Bombardment. Aristarchus crater is located at the southeast corner of the Aristarchus Plateau, and it’s big; 40 km wide and 3.5 km deep (that’s 24 miles wide and 2.1 miles deep). Here’s a picture that shows its location on the Moon:
This is an overhead picture or Aristarchus, the white arrows indicating the approximate corners of the panorama:
And here is a small image of the panorama. The image spans about 25 km (15 miles):
This next bit is pretty cool. This is a video flyover of the full-resolution west wall of Aristarchus crater. Make sure that you watch in full-screen:
And finally, here is a full-resolution image of the panorama in a special zoom viewer, where you can get really close in. Supposedly, you can see objects as small as 15 inches across. You can waste hours on this thing.
Isn’t that an incredible image? The wall looks a lot like an open-pit mine with all of the ledges and terraces. Those are all a result of the un-obliterated surface material slumping down around the edges after the impact. A lot of detail is visible, and I imagine that a geologist would go nuts in a place like that, so to speak. The rest of us just look at it in wonder.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera website