The final article for Moon week is another round up of fantastic Moon features to view with your telescope. There are some really fascinating craters, mountains and rilles to be seen and here are some more the ones that we think are mind blowing.
The Aristarchus Plateau is an amazing structure surrounding the crater Aristarchus. The crater is very bright and is the biggest feature on the plateau. It’s a very young crater, only about 450 million years old so retains a lot of structure. The crater is about 40km across and the whole plateau is about 200km in size and about 2km in height. The plateau is volcanic and has a number of really interesting features around it that have been of interest to scientists. Radon 222 gas has been detected discharging from the crater and during a study of the area the Hubble Space Telescope detected oxygen rich soils, different studies have also shown a high presence of titanium oxide. All of these things make this area of the Moon very interesting to scientists as they may be useful for any future base on the Moon.
Another really interesting crater is Gassendi because of the rilles on the crater floor and how the crater was filled with lava that must have flowed over the lower edge. The features in this crater are more pronounced when near the terminator, including the very high crater walls which in some places reach as high as 2.5km, as compared to the other side of the crater where the walls are barely visible at all. The rilles are quite spectacular but can be quite subtle in the telescope unless the shadows are favourable then they stand out quite well. The striking feature of this crater is Gassendi A which is the deep crater that overlaps the bigger Gassendi a bit.
Tycho is a crater that is hard to miss because of the huge rays that extend far from the impact site. The crater itself is not all that dissimilar to Copernicus in appearance. It has a diameter of 85km and is 4.8km deep and on an evening with good seeing you’ll be able to see a lot of detail in the crater. It is also one of the brightest craters on the Moon. The central peak of Tycho rises to about 1.6km and the crater floor is filled with hills and small gullies. The crater was probably formed about 108 million years ago, which is why it is still in a sort of fresh condition – it just hasn’t been damaged by other impacts like the older craters.
The next really amazing site is in the middle of a bunch of mountains near to the crater Plato, and that is the Vallis Alpes (Alpine Valley). This is a very long feature that appears to bisect the mountainous region between the craters Cassini and Plato and is pictured in the featured image of this article (taken by the LRO). There’s a really tricky rille to see in the middle of the valley and you’ll really need the seeing and conditions to the test if you can make out this feature. The valley is about 10km wide at the widest point and is about 166km long. The Mare Imbrium seems to have something to do with this feature and scientists think that the impact that created that mare may well have caused the fracture that lava filled to become the Vallis Alpes.
The area around the Vallis Alpes is another one of my favourite area to browse with the telescope. This area is full of mountains and is called the Montes Alpes. They make up an inner ring from the Mare Imbrium basin and range in height up to 2.4km. The area is great just to move the telescope backwards and forwards over to see different features that take your interest. They are amazing just to show the scale of the impact that caused the Mare Imbrium.
So the next time the Moon appears and washes out your deep sky viewing have a look at these features and the ones from this article to help you appreciate the Moon a bit better.