ASU LROC team releases stunning image of Tycho

Arizona State University researchers have released a stunning image of the Moon’s prominent impact crater Tycho, taken with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) on June 10, 2011. This dramatic sunrise view of Tycho crater captured by Professor Mark Robinson’s LROC team with the narrow angle camera could be considered one of the most beautiful images of the Moon taken to date.

“We planned the image because it would dramatically show the geologic relations from a more human perspective. Drama we got!” says Robinson, a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “When I first saw the reconstructed image all I could think was what it would be like to be on the first mission to Tycho. Imagine coming in for a landing within this geologic wonderland! When can we go?”

Named after the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, the relatively young Tycho is the most conspicuous crater visible when the Moon is full. It is a very popular target with amateur astronomers because it is surrounded by a distinctive dark halo and radiating bright rays. Located in the southern lunar highlands at 43.37°S, 348.68°E, the approximately 82-kilometer (51 miles) wide Tycho crater fits the mold of a typical large complex impact crater with its flat floor, terraced inner-rim walls and prominent central peak. The summit of the central peak is 2 km (6562 ft) above the crater floor, and the crater floor is about 4700 m (15,420 ft) below the rim. Many "clasts" ranging in size from 10 meters to 100s of meters are exposed in the central peak slopes.

Tycho's features are so steep and sharp because the crater is young by lunar standards, only about 110 million years. Over time micrometeorites, and not so micro meteorites, will grind and erode these steep slopes into smooth mountains.

Another NAC image pair acquired on May 27 2010 gives an excellent straight down view of the summit, including the large boulder seen in the oblique view. Fractured impact melt deposits surround the boulder. These LROC images clearly show that the central peak formed very quickly; the peak was there when impact melt that was thrown straight up during the impact came back down. The fractures probably formed over time as the steep walls of the central peak slowly eroded and slipped downhill. Eventually the peak will erode back such that the big boulder will meet its demise as it slides 2000 m (6,561 ft) to the crater floor.

View LROC’s Featured Image of the Day site for more information, photos and a video on Tycho.