Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera

Aristarchus Crater

West to East across Aristarchus crater
The Aristarchus crater (40 kilometer diameter, 23.73°N, 312.51°E) and plateau is one of the most geologically complex areas on the Moon. In this
amazing picture, the LRO spacecraft slewed 62° (west-to-east) looking across the crater.  Image: NAC M1259297876LR [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Due to its spectacular high reflectance rays Aristarchus crater has been a popular landform since telescopes were first pointed towards the Moon. During the Apollo era of exploration much was learned of the wide variety of landforms in this area and it was proposed for a landing site; alas, the Apollo program was cancelled and humans have yet to visit this fascinating region.

Apollo 15 Metric 2610
The "Cobra head" volcanic vent fed a river of lava that flowed down the Aristatuchus plateau before spilling out onto the lava plains of Oceanus Procellarum. To the east (left) of the Cobra head is Aristarchus crater and to the west (right) is Herodotus crater; Marius crater (40 kilometer diameter) is in the far distance very near the limb.  Apollo 15 Metric Photograph AS15-M-2610.

Aristarchus crater is 40 kilometers in diameter and 2700 meters deep, with a central peak that rises 300 meters above the crater floor. When LRO pointed back towards the Sun, LROC was able to capture this magnificent view highlighting subtle differences in albedo (brightness). Some of the albedo contrast is due to maturity (young material is generally brighter than older material) and some reveal true differences in rock type. The central peak shows the complexity of what lies beneath the now hardened impact melt sea that filled the bottom of the crater.

Aristarchus crater floor and central peak
The banding seen in the central peak (3200 meters wide, 300 meters tall) is due to different rock types exposed during the impact event.  What are those different rock types, and how did they form? Incidence angle is 50°, phase angle is 117°, NAC M1259297876LR [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

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