Science Features

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Challenger Astronauts Craters

08.15.2011 - Shortly after the accident, the Challenger astronauts were memorialized by having lunar craters named after them. These seven craters, located on the far side of the Moon in the Apollo Basin, expose deep portions of the lunar crust.

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LOLA Data Help Refine Impact Basin Sizes

08.02.2011 - This image reveals the power LOLA data have in helping scientists refine sizes of impact basins on the Moon. By studying lunar impact basins, scientists refine their understanding of what happened in the earliest stages of the formation of our Solar System, including the size distribution of early impactors.

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Slopes on the South Pole

07.05.2011 - The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) sends laser pulses down to the surface of the Moon from the orbiting spacecraft. These pulses bounce off of the Moon and return to LRO, providing scientists with measurements of the distance from the spacecraft to the lunar surface. As LRO orbits the Moon, LOLA measures the shape of the lunar surface, which includes information about the Moon's surface elevations and slopes.

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LCROSS impact site

06.15.2011 - On October 9, 2009, the Lunar Crater Observing and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) impacted a permanently shadowed region in Cabeus Crater near the Moon's South Pole. Since then, data from LRO and LCROSS have revealed the presence of volatiles, including water, in Cabeus. This LOLA image shows details of the region within Cabeus that cannot be seen in visible imagery (due to the aforementioned permanent shadow). LRO's polar orbit allows for a high density of measurements near the Moon's poles, which in turn gives us high-Res data of the lunar polar topography.
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Drygalski Crater

04.29.2011 - LOLA data is used to examine complex craters such as Drygalski to better constrain the shape of lunar craters.
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Antoniadi Crater

04.15.2011 - Antoniadi is a transitional crater, exhibiting both a central peak that is characteristic of complex craters and an inner ring that is characteristic of larger multi-ring basins.
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Hermite Crater

03.31.2011 - It may look like an ordinary old crater, but to some scientists the 104 km diameter Hermite Crater is one of the most interesting features on the lunar surface.
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Plaskett Crater

03.15.2011 - At 109 km in diameter, Plaskett Crater displays the morphology of a typical complex crater. For example, both a central peak and terraced crater walls can be seen in Plaskett.
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Peary Crater

2.28.2011 - Peary Crater (diameter 73 km), located near the lunar north pole, has been a subject of interest for many lunar scientists for years.
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Anaxagoras Crater

2.16.2011 - It's all about location, location, location! Anaxagoras Crater is well studied because of its location in a part of the lunar crust called the highlands.
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Schrödinger Impact Basin

7.16.2010 - Schrödinger impact basin (centered -75.0o, 132.4o E), located on the lunar far side within South Pole-Aitken Basin, is not visible from the Earth. The basin is believed to be the second youngest impact basin on the Moon (the youngest being Orientale).LOLA data reveal that the basin has approximately 3.3 km of relief from rim to floor. The basin's inner ring is clearly visible, as are lunar rilles, smaller impact craters, and a volcanic cone (see arrow). The cone is believed to be pyroclastic in nature, largely due to the dark halo that can be seen surrounding it in visible light images. The LRO narrow angle camera has also captured a view of the cone. Additional evidence for volcanic activity comes in the form of rilles and the relatively flat and smooth basin floor, which is most likely the result of infill by lava flows.Schrödinger basin is named for Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961), a theoretical physicist who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1933 for the development of the Schrödinger equation and it contributions to quantum mechanics.
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Mare Crisium

7.02.2010 - Located in the northeast quadrant of the lunar near side, Mare Crisium is a Nectarian aged basin that spans 740 km. LOLA data reveal that the floor of Mare Crisium is approximately 1.8 km below lunar datum, or "sea level," while the outer rim is about 3.34 km above lunar datum. Lava flow features are prominent enough in this mare that they can be seen in the LOLA topographic data (see arrows in image for locations of some of these features). Two Soviet missions landed in Mare Crisium in the 1960's and 70's. Luna 24 landed in Mare Crisium in 1976 and returned samples from the lunar surface to Earth. Luna 24's predecessor, Luna 15, was less successful. It crash-landed in Mare Crisium in 1969. Mare Crisium is also the location of Luna City - a fictional city featured in the book "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress." + High Res
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Goddard Crater

6.25.2010 - Goddard Crater is located along the Moons eastern limb (14.8 N, 89.0 E). LOLA data show the floor of the 90 km diameter crater to be relatively flat and smooth. The crater is named after pioneering rocket scientist Robert H. Goddard (1882-1945). Considered to be to be the father of modern rocketry, Goddard built the worlds first liquid-fueled rocket. Incidentally, the LOLA instrument was built at the one NASA Center named for Robert H. Goddard, Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on which LOLA flies was also built at Goddard Space Flight Center.
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+ Learn more about Robert H. Goddard
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6.18.2010 - Located near the lunar South Pole, the Malapert region (85.99 S, 357.07 E) is of interest as a potential location for lunar exploration. In addition to revealing the elevation of different points on the lunar surface, such as the topographically high Malapert Massif, LOLA data can also be used to classify surface roughness and to model how much sunlight different areas on the lunar surface receive for given amounts of time. With these models, scientists can find places that never receive sunlight, commonly referred to as permanently shadowed regions, as well as those that are constantly illuminated. LOLA data can also be used to determine how easily an area on the Moon could communicate with Earth by switching the "light source" in illumination models to "Earth." Areas with high "illumination" in this situation have better visibility from Earth (people on Earth can see them most often), and therefore have better communication pathways between the Earth and the Moon. LOLA data have found the rim of Malapert Massif to have high illumination. Malapert Massif also has exceptional Earth visibility, and because of its excellent communication potential (and interesting science potential!), the Malapert region has been suggested as a site for future lunar exploration. + High Res
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Mare Moscoviense

6.11.2010 - Mare Moscoviense is one of the few large maria located on the far side of the Moon. LOLA data reveal the lowest point inside Titov crater to be about 5.4 km below the lunar datum. In contrast, the highest point on the rim of the basin rests about 6 km above lunar datum. According to the LOLA data, the total relief for the basin surrounding Mare Moscoviense is 11.4 km. LOLA data reveal the lowest point inside Titov crater to be about 5.4 km below the lunar datum. In contrast, the highest point on the rim of the basin rests about 6 km above lunar datum. According to the LOLA data, the total relief for the basin surrounding Mare Moscoviense is 11.4 km.
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Humboldtianum Basin

6.04.2010 - Located along the northeastern limb of the Moon (centered at approximately 56.8 N, 81.5 E), Humboldtianum Basin is a region of interest for NASA's former Constellation Program. LOLA data show that the 650 Km diameter basin is more than 4.5 km deep. Humboldtianum Basin is estimated to have formed during the Moon's Nectarian Period, approximately 3.92-3.85 billion years ago. Many other multi-ring impact basins are also believed to have formed during this time period, including Crisium Basin.In the inner ring of Humboldtianum Basin is Mare Humboldtianum (Humboldt's Sea). LOLA data reveal the relatively smooth, flat floor of the mare. The younger mare is believed to have formed during the Late Imbrian, approximately 3.8-3.6 billion years ago. Also visible in the basin are smaller craters that were partially filled in by the mare lava. Mare Humboldtianum was named after explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and is one of only two maria named after people, the other being Mare Smythii named after British astronomer William Henry Smyth (1788-1865). [High Res]
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Mare Tranquillitatis

5.28.2010 - The Sea of Tranquility has long captivated astronomers. Once thought to be an ocean on the Moon, its relatively smooth fields of basaltic lavas and equatorial position made it an ideal location for the first manned lunar landing. On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the first human footprints on the Moon near the southwestern shores of Mare Tranquillitatis.Mare Tranquillitatis (approximately 873 km in diameter) lies in the Tranquillitatis basin (centered on 0.68 N, 23.43 E; extending, roughly, from 20.4 N-4.4 S, 15.0-45.9 E). This basin is thought to have been formed as a result of a very large impact in the Moon's early history, likely more than 3.9 million years ago. The crater was then flooded with mare basalts, making it appear dark when viewed from Earth, and making it smooth and relatively flat, as seen in LOLA data. There is only a little over a 500 m elevation difference between the highest and lowest points within the mare, excluding overprinted craters. The mare has an irregular margin because several basins, including Serenitatis and Nectaris, intersect in this region. See if you can find other features surrounding Mare Tranquillitatis on a map of the Moon.
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Reiner Gamma - A Lunar Swirl

5.21.2010 - The Reiner Gamma region on the lunar nearside (7.5 N, 301.4 E) has an unusual surface feature called a "lunar swirl." Visible in the Clementine 750-nm mosaic image shown here, it resembles a swirl of cream in a mug of hot chocolate. Lunar swirls have a higher albedo than the surrounding lunar surface. The formation of lunar swirls, especially the Reiner Gamma swirl, is a mystery. Although the Moon does not have a global magnetic field, localized magnetic fields have been observed in swirl regions. One idea is that the mini-magnetic fields have shielded the swirls from the solar wind, which can darken lunar soils over time. Two swirls on the lunar farside lie directly opposite nearside impact basins (Mare Imbrium and Mare Orientale), suggesting that their formation and that of the localized magnetic fields is related to the impacts that created the basins. Reiner Gamma does not have a corresponding impact basin on the farside. In addition, there appears to be no correlation between the Reiner Gamma swirl and its local topography. LOLA data show that the region is relatively flat. The contour interval in this image is 0.2 km. + View Color Image | + View B/W Image
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Einstein and Einstein A: A Study in Crater Morphology

5.14.2010 - Located on the western limb of the Moon, Einstein and Einstein A craters (16.3oN, 271.3oE ) are only visible to Earth-based observers during certain lunar lighting and orientation conditions. Einstein A is younger than Einstein, as indicated by the fact that it lies squarely in the middle of the floor of Einstein. When viewed in topographic data, these two craters reveal much about the relative age and shape of an impact crater. To understand further, let's first take a look at Einstein. Einstein is a fairly large crater that spans 198 km across. A crater's size alone however cannot reveal much about age. Einstein's relative age can be determined by examining the frequency and distribution of impact craters overprinted on its rim and floor. Younger craters have had fewer impacts, which enables them to retain their original morphology. Einstein A reveals most of its original structure, including a raised rim and ejecta blanket, and is therefore a relatively young crater as compared to Einstein, whose original structure has been somewhat degraded over time by smaller impacts. The Einstein craters were named after famed physicist, philosopher, and scientist Albert Einstein (1879-1955).
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The Lunar Figure 8

5.07.2010 - Van de Graaff Crater, located on the lunar far side north of South Pole-Aitken Basin (172.08, - 26.92), has an unusual figure 8 shape (~240 km x 140 km) that has long caught the eye of lunar scientists. Its shape suggests that it was formed by two separate impacts even though there is no crater wall separating its two halves. LOLA data indicate that the floor of the crater is relatively flat except for the presence of several smaller impact craters. Portions of its rim reach almost 1000 m above lunar mean elevation level, while its floor is near - 2100 m.Van de Graaff is a region of interest for robotic and human exploration of the Moon due to its location in a magnetically and geochemically anomalous region. The Moon does not have a global magnetic field like the Earth, thus the origin of its small, localized magnetic fields, such as the one near Van de Graaff, is of scientific interest. Van de Graaff and the surrounding region are also slightly enriched in thorium, an element found in lunar KREEP (potassium (K), rare earth elements (REE), and phosphorus (P) terrain. Most of the Moon's KREEP-rich materials are found on the lunar near side, thus the presence of enhanced thorium in the Van de Graaff region is intriguing.
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