Aitken Central Peak, Seen Obliquely

Southern end of Aitken crater central peak complex. The upper left is about 1000 meters above the crater floor, which is just seen at lower right. Bright material (high albedo) may be a landslide of local soil, or a secondary impact from a small nearby impact crater. Distance along ridge line is ~4 km [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Occasionally LRO is commanded to look off to the side at extreme angles to snap spectacular views. On 11 January, 2011 (hot off the press!) LROC shuttered this spectacular of Aitken crater. Here LROC was looking over the southwest ridge of its central peak. In the distance the lower portion of the northeastern walls of Aitken crater itself is just visible. In the center of the image is the Aitken crater Constellation Region of Interest.

LROC NAC oblique view of Aitken crater, including the central peak, northern walls, and the Constellation Region of Interest. Scene is about 30 km wide [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has collected an extremely limited number of these oblique views of the lunar surface, which are useful for engineering purposes and visualizing key geologic features on the lunar surface -- like Aitken. Aitken (~135 km in diameter) is one of the most geologically diverse settings on the farside. The crater is mapped as an Imbrian-aged feature, and its floor is covered in a small puddle of mare basalt; mare deposits are quite rare on the lunar farside, and lunar scientists are still trying to figure out why. Aitken is also on the northern rim of the great South Pole-Aitken basin, the oldest and largest impact basin on the Moon and one of the oldest and largest impact basins in the whole Solar System! Further exploration of the South Pole-Aitken basin is one of the highest priorities for planetary science in the next decade.

LROC WAC mosaic of the central portion of Aitken crater. The arrow indicates a high albedo patch seen in the opening image [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

This latest LROC oblique view gives you a sense of what astronauts will see on their terminal descent into Aitken. Check out the stunning full-resolution image and think about where you would go inside this spectacular geologic feature!

Read some of our previous postings about Aitken crater here, here, and here!

And visit the central peak of Bhabha crater.

Published by Mark Robinson on 17 January 2011