Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bhabha sinks into the shadows

Last rays striking central peaks of Bhabha, just before sunset. An oblique view from the west looking east; LROC observation M133982125, July 17, 2010 [NASA/GSFC/Arizina State University].

Mark Robinson
Principal Investigator
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC)
Arizona State University

The central farside crater Bhabha (64 km diameter) was named in honor of the physicist Homi Jehangir Bhabha (1909-1966), a nuclear physics pioneer in his home country of India.

Bhabha Crater lies deep within the interior of the enormous South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin.

Full resolution close-up of the summit of Bhabha's central peaks [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Bhabha has a trio of central peaks that rise over a kilometer above the crater floor, and it has an intricate and complex system of rim terraces. Bhabha itself is a deep crater whose floor lies some 3 to 3.5 km below the crater rim. The crater is of special interest because the impact that formed it penetrated deep into the SPA Basin floor and excavated materials of the SPA Basin impact-melt complex, distributing these materials onto the surrounding plains.

Even though this event happened long ago in the Moon's history, those materials are still present in the surrounding plains deposits waiting for a lunar explorer - whether robotic or human - to come along and return them to Earth. These materials could then be used to address several important scientific questions, including age-dating the SPA Basin formation event, determining the nature of the materials that melted when SPA formed, and figuring out how deep the impact penetrated - perhaps through the lower crust and into the upper mantle of the Moon!

Bhabha is truly a window deep into the interior of the Moon and deep into the ancient history of the Solar System.

Full view across Bhabha crater [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Look at those boulders on the summit. They may contain some of the deepest materials readily available from the Moon's crust. Imagine collecting samples of these precious materials yourself and returning them to Earth!

Explore the full-resolution LROC
Narrow Angle Camera view of Bhabha

The Boulders of Bhabha [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

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