Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera

Great Wall!

East wall of Antoniadi crater
Floor and eastern wall of Antoniadi crater, image width along wall is 40 km, M1146021973LR [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

The Moon is a rugged place, in fact some mountains rise more 8 km (5 miles) above the local terrain! A great way to visualize these amazing heights is to rotate the LRO spacecraft to the side and snap an astronaut's eye view of the terrain. In this example, LRO rolled 75° from its normal downward looking position, at an altitude of only 41 km (25 miles). The 4,000 m (13,120 ft) tall cliff in the background is the east wall of Antoniadi crater. The bottom of the small bowl-shaped crater tucked behind peaks in the center-ground is the lowest point on the Moon, more than 9 km (5.4 miles) below the lunar mean radius (comparable to sea level on the Earth). Imagine orbiting the Moon as this spectacular landscape passed beneath you!

Color Coded Topography SPA FLOOR

Color coded shaded relief map (above) of the floor of the mighty South Pole–Aitken (SPA) basin, 2,500 km (1,550 miles) in diameter. Warm colors represent high topography and cool colors low topography. Yellow line marks the location of the topographic profile shown below. The arrow in the upper right points out a peak that rises 7,400 m (24,300 ft) above the mean radius and 16,400 m (53,800 ft) above the lowest point. Topography was computed from LROC Wide Angle Camera stereo observations.


The unnamed crater that occupies the lowest point on the Moon is 12 km in diameter and it lies on the floor of Antoniadi crater (140 km diameter), which in turn is on the floor of the SPA basin (2,500 km diameter) - a small hole in a big hole in an enormous hole! Unlike the Earth, most topography on the Moon resulted from impacts across a broad range of sizes. On the Earth most topography is due to the motion of plates, both colliding and pulling apart. Despite these differences, it is an amazing coincidence that both the Earth and Moon have just about the same amount of relief; close to 20,000 meters (65,620 feet) from highest point to lowest point. The total lunar relief is even more amazing when you consider the diameter of the Moon is only one-quarter that of the Earth.

Topographic Profile Of Antoniadi Crater
Topography of floor of Antoniadi crater, the left side of the profile is in the 12 km diameter crater that contains the lowest point on the Moon. Profile location is indicated by the yellow line in the SPA map shown above

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