|West wall of Aristarchus crater seen obliquely by the LROC Narrow Angle Cameras from an altitude of only 26 kilometers. Scene is about 12 kilometers wide at the base, NAC observation M175569775, LRO orbit 11008, November 10, 2011. View the full resolution west wall panoramic image HERE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].|
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera
Arizona State University
The Aristarchus plateau is one of the most geologically diverse places on the Moon: a mysterious raised flat plateau, a giant rille carved by enormous outpourings of lava, fields of explosive volcanic ash, and all surrounded by massive flood basalts. A relatively recent asteroid (or comet) slammed into this geologic wonderland, blowing a giant hole in the ground revealing a cross section of over 3000 meters (9800 ft) of geology. No wonder planners for the Apollo missions put this plateau high on its list of targets for human exploration. This amazing image was acquired on 10 November 2011 as LRO passed north-to-south about 70 km east of the crater's center while it was slewed 70° to the west. The spacecraft was only 26 km (16.2 miles) above the surface; about two times lower than normal. For a sense of scale, that altitude is only a little over twice as high as a commercial jets fly above the Earth!
|Full panoramic view of the west wall of Aristarchus crater revealing impact melt deposits, exposures of high reflectance, anorthosite, streamers of pyroclastic ash and blocks up to 100 meters in size. Full width of panorama is about 25 km, M175569775 [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].|
|Six sections, reluctantly reduced from their original 40 centimeter-per-pixel resolution, lifted from LROC Narrow Angle Camera observation M168516102R, LRO orbit 9968, August 20, 2011 (when the LRO orbit was briefly lowered to an average 25 kilometer high perilune, are unparalleled examples of the west-northwestern Aristarchus crater wall's variety of textures. Solar illumination incidence angle was 42.43° centered on 24.36°N, 312.18°E from 25.05 km altitude [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].|
|Dawn View of Aristarchus: Sunrise lighting enhances surface texture on Aristarchus crater (40 km diameter). Northwest (upper left) of the crater is the mysterious Aristarchus plateau, to the east, southeast, and south lies the edge of the vast mare Oceanus Procellarum. Small white arrows indicate approximate corners of the NAC panorama, In the full size LROC context image, a vertical line on the right shows the LRO orbit ground track when the Featured Image NAC panorama was acquired. (LROC WAC mosaic) [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].|
|Early afternoon Aristarchus: Early afternoon WAC mosaic of Aristarchus crater to compare with the sunrise mosaic above. Again, small white arrows indicate the approximate corners of the Featured Image NAC panorama, and in the original context image a vertical line on the right (beyond the field of view of this crop from the original) shows LRO orbit ground track [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].|
The floor of Aristarchus crater provides explorers a unique opportunity to study a wide variety of lunar rocks and geologic processes, possibly including how lunar granite forms. Diverse materials such as dark, multilayered mare basalts in the walls, bright crustal rocks in the central peak, impact melt, and even regional pyroclastic materials blanketing the crater are brought to the floor and accumulated through mass wasting, creating a bountiful trove of
Jump to the full resolution west wall panoramic image, and view our flyover video on Youtube.
Previous LROC Aristarchus Featured Images:
Geologic Diversity of the Aristarchus Plateau
Striated Blocks in Aristarchus Crater
Aristarchus Plateau Pyroclastics
Central peak of Aristarchus (with fly-over)