Friday, November 4, 2011

LROC: Boulder rich crater on floor of Aitken

Full resolution (65 centimeter per pixel) view of the boulder-rich central zone in an unusually shaped small crater north of Aitken N, on the wide floor of farside landmark crater Aitken. LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) M141132981R, LRO Orbit 5932, October 7, 2010. Field of view is 378 meters wide, incidence angle 17.79° from 63.6 km. From LROC Featured Image released November 2, 2011 [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Wider angle view of the unnamed diamond-shaped and boulder-rich crater on the floor of Aitken. See the full size LROC Featured Image HERE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Hiroyuki Sato
LROC News System

This extremely boulder-rich, unnamed crater is located on the floor of Aitken crater (at the north rim of South Pole Aitken Basin); the diameter is about 480 meters. The floor of Aitken crater is thought to be resurfaced by post-impact lava flows, which corresponds to the low-reflectance smooth surface. The unnamed crater impacted with and excavated these putative lava flows long after the lava solidified.

The high-reflectance boulders of this crater are mostly distributed within the crater cavity, and very few are visible in its ejecta. The extent of this ejecta, traced by the dark/bright contrast, is quite small compared to the crater diameter. Another crater with a similar diameter at 3.4 km to the northeast also has similar characteristics, which are different from typical craters with smooth bowl-shaped cavities and long, bright rays.

The physical properties of target materials, in this case the lava flow layers, and projectile itself, can change the final crater shape and boulder distribution. Why are so many boulders found only on the interior? That is a darned good question, and we don't know the answer! Perhaps the basalt is very thin here, and the lower portions of the crater expose underlying unconsolidated (loose) debris supplied as the ejecta from Aitken N crater. The strength difference between a basalt cap and the regolith may play a role in boulder distribution as well. This type of crater occurs in other mare, and their origins are often mysterious. Here is yet another lunar enigma awaiting future exploration!

LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC) monochrome mosaic of Aitken crater, not far from the central meridian of the Moon's farside. Image center view is located near 16.46°S, 173°E. The star and rectangle indicate the location of the LROC Featured Image and NAC footprint. View the full size LROC WAC context image HERE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Explorer this boulder rich crater and its environs on the floor of Aitken in the full NAC frame HERE.

Related posts:
Farside impact!
Ray of boulders
Recent Impact in Oceanus Procellarum
Rubble Pile on Fresh Crater Floor
Crater in Mare Humorum

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