Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lava Flows Exposed in Bessel Crater

Spectacular example of layering exposed just inside the rim of Bessel (21.8°N, 17.9°E), a familiar 17 kilometer-wide nearside crater in Mare Serenitatis. LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) observation M135073175R, field of view above is 500 meters; LRO orbit 5029, July 29, 2010; solar incidence 13° See the Full-Size LROC Featured Image, HERE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Sarah Braden
LROC News System

The outcrops exposed on the interior wall of Bessel crater (~16 km in diameter) are remarkable since they are most likely preserved layering of mare basalt. Today's Featured Image shows a portion of the northern wall, which contains multiple layers that probably represent discrete lava flow deposits in Mare Serenitatis. Over time, large, but relatively thin, lava flows spread across the extent of Mare Serenitatis.

Lunar pits imaged by LROC also give us a good look at basalt flow layers. Boulders broken off of the mare layers tumble down the wall toward the floor of the crater.

Bessel crater is named after Friedrich Bessel, the developer of Bessel functions. By measuring the thickness of layering found in Bessel and other craters, scientists can put constraints on the thickness of individual lava flows. What else can Bessel crater tell us about Mare Serenitatis?

The original LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC) 100 meter/pixel monochrome mosaic context image is seen here draped over the high-resolution Digital Terrain Model of the Apollo science mission corridor, available to users of Google Earth. Over that the LROC NAC frame was added (along with the Featured Image, barely visible inside the northwest rim. Bessel's interior shows slumping of material from the walls onto the floor [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Explore the entire NAC frame!

Related images:
Linne Crater
Dark streaks in Diophantus crater
Kepler's Rim

The view from the northwest floor (actually standing on slumped material) gazing up more than a kilometer along the longitudinal length of LROC NAC frame M135073175R and the location of the LROC Featured Image, almost to the crater rim (beyond line of sight). The Apollo Corridor was photographed in detail during the final Apollo "J" science missions, allowing for an assembly of a detailed terrain model, a method now being applied to the entire Moon by the LROC, LOLA and other instrument teams operating the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Hopping digitally up to the rim of Bessel for a view south to the opposite rim, from a vantage near the location of the Featured Image. Similar lava layers are exposed at the same height 16 kilometers away. The southern Mare Serenitatis spreads out beyond. Examining LROC photography in this way demonstrates the global potential of the vast data being still being collected by LRO science teams, already many times over more information than all previous deep space missions combined.

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