Lunar craters, young and old

Contributed by
Apr 8, 2011

This is a pretty neat picture taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter: two craters, side by side:

[Click to impactenate.]

What's cool about it is the obvious age discrepancy between the two craters. The Moon lacks water and air, but it has erosion nonetheless: micrometeorite impacts, solar wind, and even thermal stress cause by the month-long day night cycle slowly wears away at the surface. Old craters have a rounded look to them, while fresher craters are sharp-edged, and show the debris from impact.

The full-res image has a scale of just a meter per pixel, so a lot of the smaller boulders you see around the younger crater on the right are the size of cars. Both craters are roughly 300 or so meters across; you could walk briskly across them in a couple of minutes.

I noticed the young crater has an odd shape, non-circular, almost diamond-shaped. Then I looked at other, nearby craters, and saw the same thing, so it must mostly be due to lighting. However, there is a funny hillock just to the right of the crater, and the boulder field around it is not symmetric; there are more above and below it. I wonder if there is a density change in the underlying rock just to the right of the crater, which helped shape the crater...?

That area is mostly flat lava flood plains, and in the zoomable and pannable larger-area context image there are some interesting features that look like very old crater rims poking up through the plain. Check it out! One of my favorite things about LRO is the pile of high-res pictures like this one you can zoom in an out of. It really helps give you a feel for what you're seeing.

[Below is a gallery from some of my favorite pictures from LRO.]

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