Trolling the Moon

By Phil Plait | April 2, 2011 7:00 am

A long time ago, something really, really, really BIG hit the Moon. Hard. The explosion was huge beyond human grasp, and when it was all done, the hole it left on the Moon was 900 km (600 miles) across!

Behold, Mare Orientale:

This image was taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Wide Angle Camera, and shows the entire basin. It’s located just over the edge of the Moon as seen from Earth, so we can only get hints of it when we look from home. LRO can see it in all its neck-hair-raising glory.

See all those radial features emanating outward from it? Those are crater chains: secondary impact events as huge chunks of debris hundreds of meters or even kilometers across were thrown hundreds of kilometers away by the force of the impact!

Yegads. You can see these better in an interactive pan-and-scan image that allows you to zoom in to scales of 100 meters per pixel. It’s incredible.

But looking at the central part itself, I got a funny familiar feeling. I read reddit, after all. Was the Moon… trolling us?

Well, it’s a bit of stretch. I suppose you might see a plain ol’ smiley face there, but after spending so much time on teh intertubez it’s hard for me not to see the trollface. Or maybe I’m just too sensitized to trolls…

Image credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University


Related posts:

The extraordinary back of the Moon
The extraordinary face of the Moon
Side view of the Moon
Zoom in on a HUGE lunar bulls-eye

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Geekery, Humor, Pretty pictures

Comments (40)

Links to this Post

  1. Another Moon Image « Mike Hardisty Photography | April 21, 2011
  1. Peter Eldergill

    It looks more like button worn by “The Comedian” from the movie “Watchmen”, but if only it was on Mars…

    Heh

    Pete

  2. Blake P

    Problem, astronomers?

  3. Phil, I am surprised you did not instantly recognize the image you have helped iconify as “The Stupid, it Burns!”

    http://www.plognark.com/?q=node/1129

    I’m not surprised the Moon agrees with you and Plognark. It would be hard to watch the antics on this planet even from an orbit of 221,000 miles.

  4. You know, for a moment there, I thought you were going somewhere else with this. A brief, horrifying moment.

    SYNCHRONISTIC BONUS: While trying to locate innocent-ish illustrations of this internet meme (like, say, the September 20, 2004 cover of TIME magazine) I remembered a related image involving a hole in a tree. When I punched in the search terms “tree” and …well, you know, the first result containing my desired image was FARK entry 5696834, “Actual pictures of planets orbiting other stars” from Discover magazine. Which points RIGHT BACK to Bad Astronomy – the October 18, 2010 entry.

  5. mike burkhart

    Reminds me of that crater on Mars that looks like a smilely face (no not the one in Cydona) I think both look like that character Evil Otto form the video games Berzerk and Frenzy. Stanley, I’ve had all my vacinations inculding a flu shot last year and am in perfect health , and as Phil as siad thanks to the anti-vac crowd there has been an increase in the number of diseases that these vacines prevent so people like you don’t seem to care if children suffer from these diseases. By the way if you went to the hospital with a bad deep cut and needed a Tetnus shot you would turn it down and die of Tetnus right? I’LL bet.

  6. Eirik

    Trolling the “Trolling the Moon” post, Stanley? Seems oddly on-topic for some (lack of) reason.

    -edit: nevermind, post was deleted. Guess I won’t be feeding the trolls today.

  7. Jeffersonian

    About how big would the asteroid have been to cause the crater? (I know it depends on factors such as angle, mass, but, roughly?)

  8. Carson Myers

    FYI It’s called “coolface,” not the trollface.

  9. Marina Stern

    Looks to me like an adult male orangutan.

  10. RwFlynn

    I dunno. I have an easier time seeing the AwesomeFace in there.

  11. Joel

    I can see a Chocobo in the central black part, myself. Standing upright in the original image, roted 45 degrees or so in the smaller…it even has an eye…

  12. Matt L

    Yeah, I was also curious if you had a rough estimate of how big that asteroid would have been. It’s funny, when I first looked and saw the crater chains I thought “I wonder if those could have been created by debris from the impact” then I decided there was no way, they were probably just other craters. Then I kept reading and was all “Holy cow! That must have been some explosion.”

    Pretty mind boggling to imagine.

    P.S. I see a Creeper face from Minecraft: “That’s a nice everything you have there. SSSSssssSSSSSsss”

  13. Oli

    I wonder what this explosion would have looked like if an observer from Earth saw it…

  14. Richard S

    Considering the eye witness testimony to the June 18, 1178 impact on the moon, which was considerably smaller than this one (http://www.weblore.com/richard/june_18_1178_impact_crater.htm), one can only imagine how spectacular this impact would have looked from Earth.

  15. Matt B

    @Carson

    I hope you’re trolling right now.

  16. Sean

    I have an alibi honest

  17. jess tauber

    IT’S THE FACE OF A HIPPOPOTAMUS, can’t you see that? You can also see the mass of the fat, round body surrounding the face, and the front feet below.

  18. Jon Hanford

    “Considering the eye witness testimony to the June 18, 1178 impact on the moon, which was considerably smaller than this one (htp//www.weblore…..), one can only imagine how spectacular this impact would have looked from Earth.”

    The alleged 1178 impact creating the crater Giordano Bruno would have looked like the apocalypse to us on Earth, which is why this event likely didn’t happen. Paul Withers (then at UA Lunar and Planetary Lab) investigated further and found:

    “The impact would have launched 10 million tons of ejecta into the Earth’s atmosphere in the following week, previous studies have shown”

    “I calculate that this would cause a week-long meteor storm comparable to the peak of the 1966 Leonids,” he said. Ten million tons of rock showering the entire Earth as pieces of ejecta about a centimeter across (inch-sized fragments) for a week is equivalent to 50,000 meteors each hour.”[!!!]

    “And they would be very bright, very easy to see, at magnitude 1 or magnitude 2. It would have been a spectacular sight to see! Everyone around the world would have had the opportunity to see the best fireworks show in history,”

    Of course “….no vigilant 12th century sky watcher reported such a storm.”

    If true, though, it would have looked AWESOME.

    ref: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2001/ast26apr_1/
    (and see links at page bottom)

    Abstract of Withers 2001 paper in Meteoritics: http://www.uark.edu/~meteor/abst36-4.html

  19. Jamie

    Hah, there’s a chocobo on the moon!
    Can’t see troll face though.

  20. newq

    I don’t see the trollface. To me, it looks more like the forever alone meme.

    http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/forever-alone

    Kinda fits. The moon’s just floating out there, a quarter million miles from civilization…forever alone…

  21. Joel

    @ 21 Jamie: I can’t see it either. Not even side to side like that.

    Glad someone else can see the chocobo too though.

  22. ad

    I instantly saw a curled up fetus in the center of the crater, like the famous image from 2001: A Space Odyssey.And then thought of the moon monolith, and thought oh yeah! Then I read on and discovered that’s not what you were on about.

  23. Been on the internetz for years now but the “Trollface” is new to me. First time I’ve heard of that one. The idea of trolling where people post deliberately provactive and derailing comments I’ve heard about but “trollface” – nope. Can’t really see the pareidolia either I’m afraid.

    That is one impressive crater though. :-)

  24. What makes it look weird to me is just that it was clearly pasted together from images with different lighting conditions–the sun angle abruptly reverses at a line from the top to the bottom of the picture, near the center.

  25. Joseph G

    @#5 Harold: I really, really hope you’re not referring to what I think you are…
    *checks out said issue of Time magazine*
    Yep. Ack.

    To be fair, astronomy has no shortage of ragged ring shapes, so that sort of thing is going to be more or less inevitable :P

  26. Bobby

    I don’t know, for me it’s much more like the awesome face – http://img851.imageshack.us/img851/1350/awesomemoon.jpg

  27. @BlakeP
    You beat me to it, although I was going to say, “Problem, Phil?”

  28. Joseph G

    @28 Bobby: HAaaahahaha!
    I was looking for that, but I couldn’t remember what the heck it was called. That’s exactly what it looked like to me :D

  29. Joel

    Just noticed – on the full image, you can see there’s a long windy wiggly linear feature to the right of the central crater at about three o’clock, leading up to the dark patch at the top right. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was a dry watercourse. But since it’s not, what is it??

  30. James

    Imagine if that were on the near side of the moon. We wouldn’t have the man in the moon but instead legends of the All Seeing Eye.

    I was hoping that meteor a couple years ago would hit Mars so we could see an impact on a rocky world.

  31. So, Phil. Why aren’t we seeing collisions with the Moon these days? Is it just because any comets or meteoroids big enough have already been cleared out? We always talk about what a big asteroid impact would do to the Earth, but what would be the effects on Earth of a large impact to the Moon?

  32. Messier Tidy Upper

    @31. Joel Says:

    Just noticed – on the full image, you can see there’s a long windy wiggly linear feature to the right of the central crater at about three o’clock, leading up to the dark patch at the top right. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was a dry watercourse. But since it’s not, what is it??

    My guess would be an ancient river – of molten lava! ;-)

    In Other Words, a lava tube that has collapsed or just where the darker maria basalts once flowed. Mind you, I’m not 100% sure of that or that I’ve found the feature you’re talking about.

  33. Messier Tidy Upper

    @33. The Big Blue Frog :

    So, Phil. Why aren’t we seeing collisions with the Moon these days? Is it just because any comets or meteoroids big enough have already been cleared out? We always talk about what a big asteroid impact would do to the Earth, but what would be the effects on Earth of a large impact to the Moon?

    Well the Moon is a fair way away and makes a relatively small target but I think Luna still gets hit from time to time even today.

    There’s at least one SF novel I recall reading where a massive impact on the Moon emperils our Earth.

    Also pretty sure we know of lunar metorites – rocks blasted off the Moon by impacts – that are of varying ages too. :-)

  34. Messier Tidy Upper

    See :

    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/1999/ast03nov99_1/

    for one NASA project spotting Leonid metorite impacts on the Moon complete with extra links from there. I thought I remembered the Bad Astronomer writing something about this too but can’t seem to find it.

    Plus here :

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=21397

    For some tentative conclusions suggesting the Moon is struck more often than we used to think! :-o

    Finally, see here :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_meteorite

    For the wikipedia page on Lunar meteorites.

    As always, I hope these are interesting / useful for y’all. :-)

  35. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ :

    There’s at least one SF novel I recall reading where a massive impact on the Moon emperils imperils (sp?) our Earth.

    That one novel that I was thinking of there is written by Jack McDevitt in in 1998 and is titled Moonfall :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_McDevitt

    The novel had a wikipage of its own once but that was sadly deleted, dunno why. (Hate it when that happens.) A good albeit far-fetched read that I’d recommend and rate reasonably high.

    Got vague memories of the BA basting a (totally unrelated?) bad B-grade movie featuring that scenario too, but might just be mistaken.

    Aha! Success at last! :-D

    Searching for a BA blog piece on le impacts Leonid la Lune found me this one :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2005/12/23/meteorite-hits-the-moon/

    from wa-aay back when & this more recent post :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/03/19/lunar-meteor-impact-on-video/

    Which both answer (#33) The Big Blue Frog’s question pretty well. :-)

    BTW. typing into Google images got translated to :

    Did you mean: Leonard hitting Moon – bad astronomy blog?

    Hah! Poor Leonard – ouch! :-o

  36. Hernán

    It’s more like a “Forever alone” face…

  37. Joel

    @Messier Tidy Upper – If so, that’s awesome.

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