Tag: Tycho crater

Majestic mountains of the Moon

By Phil Plait | June 30, 2011 6:30 am

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter takes amazing pictures of the Moon; I’ve posted dozens over the past couple of years. One of my favorite things is when the spacecraft snaps features I know: craters, mountains, winding valleys that I’ve seen myself behind the eyepiece. When I was younger I spent countless hours scouring the lunar surface with my telescope, and it’s still a fun target when I haul my ‘scope out to the end of the driveway.

And among the best of the best is the crater Tycho. You probably know it already; when the Moon is full the crater is bright, and the rays extending from it — plumes of material ejected radially during the impact that formed the crater — are extremely obvious. At 86 km (50 miles) across, it’s a decent-sized hole in the surface, with a beautifully-defined system of central mountain peaks 15 km (8 miles) across. So when LRO sets its sights on Tycho’s peaks, well… you get a gorgeous panorama like this:

You must click that to enlunenate it and see it in incredible detail. It’s truly spectacular!

That peak rises about 2 km (1.2 miles) about the crater floor. Look how steep it is! I was mentally comparing it to the local foothills of the Rockies near where I live in Boulder, and realized it’s not a bad analogy as far as size and shape go. In one way, hiking to the top of Tycho’s peak would be easier, since the gravity is only 1/6th of Earth’s… but while the air is thin here in Boulder, it’s literally nonexistent on the Moon. So I’m thinking hiking Tycho would be somewhat more taxing.

But what a sight when you reached the top! Sitting smack dab on that largest peak is a boulder I’d very much like to see up close:

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

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