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Photo of the Century

January 10, 2004

Image Credit: Lunar Orbiter II 162-H3

Photo of the Century

Thirty-eight years ago, near the beginning of the Space Age, Lunar Orbiter II snapped this low oblique photo of the inside of Copernicus crater, and the press labeled it the Photo of the Century. This view from above one rim, looks 93 km across the crater's floor and peaks, up the terraced far wall, to profiles of the Carpathian Mountains. Clearly the sheer scarp of the first terrace will be a great obstacle for future astronauts wanting to enter or leave the crater! And the middle central peak seems to be breeched - its cut open from summit to floor. This looks very much like a volcanic cinder cone on Earth that has had part of its wall carried away by a lava flow. But we don't see such a flow in Copernicus. What we do see - or rather multi-wavelength images show - is that these peaks are olivine-rich rocks from 8-10 km depth that were thrust up into the lunar sky by a rebound to the impact that excavated the crater.

Related Links:
Impact Crater Geology

Tomorrow's LPOD: Straight Wall

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