Saturday, April 24, 2010

LOLA's Apollo Basin

From Lunar Pioneer 3
An unprecedented depth of laser altimetry resolution from data built up into a false color image of 537 km-wide Apollo Basin. The LOLA (Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter) is on-board NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) [NASA/GSFC]

LOLA (GSFC) - Located in the northeast corner of South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin, Apollo Basin is a multi-ringed impact remnant approximately 537 km across. Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter datasets gathered from the vantage of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's ~54 kilometer-high nominal-mission, circular polar orbit reveals Apollo's "significantly degraded" outer rim and a partially buried inner rim.

Before LOLA, the most detailed laser altimetry of the Moon's topography was barely a year-old, gathered using the LAT instrument package on Japan's first lunar orbiter SELENE-1 (Kaguya). Apollo Basin is nearly a quarter the width the vast 2100 km (4 billion year-old) South Pole-Aitken Basin, or 'SPA.' A very deep impact within a deep impact, recent analysis of the deepest interiors of Apollo has uncovered remnants of the Moon's original global crust [JAXA/SELENE].

Apollo Basin has been featured in the news recently (See "'Biggest, deepest crater,' an excavation of the hidden, ancient Moon," March 6, 2010), with discoveries of crustal material previously unseen on the lunar surface. When used with datasets from other instruments (such as M3 from Chandrayaan-1) high-resolution topographic data from LOLA can help scientists understand the extent of this previously unseen lunar crustal material.

Interior of Apollo basin - HDTV (2008) Japan's Kaguya lunar orbiter [JAXA/NHK/SELENE].

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