Lunar Beauty

A bright young crater.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera imaged this bright young ray crater (3.13˚N, 281.07˚E) on 3 November 2018 — just three weeks ago. The Sun shone from the west (left, 48˚ incidence angle). This image covers an area 8.1 kilometers across. NAC image M12959100LR [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon during Apollo 11 in July 1969, he radioed to Earth that the landscape around him had "a stark beauty all its own." The whole Moon is like that. As proof, we offer this young impact crater blasted in the eroded wall of the partly buried crater Hedin. It is distant from the starkly beautiful landscape Armstrong saw: the Apollo 11 landing site on Mare Tranquillitatis is more than 1000 kilometers to the east.

The unnamed crater, just 1.8 kilometers across, is too small to see from Earth with unaided eyes. It is in the Moon's wild west, just past Oceanus Procellarum and close to the line dividing the nearside from the farside, so it would be hard to glimpse in any case. If you stood on the crater rim, you would see the Earth forever slowly bobbing up, down, and sideways close to the eastern horizon

It lies within the zone battered and buried by ejecta from the formation of Mare Orientale, the youngest major impact basin on the Moon, between 3.5 and 3.8 billion years ago. This small crater is much younger than Orientale: bright rays, complex ejecta patterns, and few superposed small craters indicate that is less than 100 million years old.

Look closely at this crater. Some might say they see a hole in the ground. Try to see it, however, as the Armstrong saw the Moon. Search the crater walls for layers and landslides. Notice the thin dark streamers of late-stage ejecta — material the small asteroid that excavated the crater lofted at a steep angle, so that it soared high and landed last, drawing fine lines on the just-deposited bright ejecta near the crater. Farther from the rim, look for secondary impact features — irregular depressions excavated by ejecta. Observe the play of shadow and light. This crater has a beauty all its own.

You can zoom in on the crater and its surroundings in the full-resolution mosaic below (M12959100LR).

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Published by David Portree on 21 November 2018