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Spectacular new images of a gigantic crater on the moon were captured recently by a low-skimming NASA satellite.
In November 2011, the space agency's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft passed over the moon's Aristarchus crater, which spans 25 miles (40 kilometers) and sinks more than 2 miles (3.5 kilometers) deep. Photos and video of the crater from LRO's sweep were released Dec. 25.
"The spacecraft was only 26 km (16.2 miles) above the surface; about two times lower than normal," Mark Robinson, principal investigator of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera at Arizona State University, wrote in a NASA post. "For a sense of scale, that altitude is only a little over twice as high as commercial jets fly above the Earth!" The spot offers some fantastic, and scientifically interesting, scenery.
03 04 57 07 CC Roger. And we've got an observation you can make if you have some time up
there. There's been some lunar transient events reported in the vicinity of
03 04 57 28 LMP Roger. We just went into spacecraft darkness. Until then, why, we couldn't see
a thing down below us. But now, with earthshine, the visibility is pretty fair. Looking
back behind me, now, I can see the corona from where the Sun has just set. And
we'll get out the map and see what we can find around Aristarchus
03 04 57 54 CDR We're coming upon Aristarchus right now - -
03 04 57 55 CC - - Okay. Aristarchus is at angle Echo 9 on your ATO chart. It's about 394 miles
north of track. However, at your present altitude, which is about 167 nautical
miles, it ought to be over - that is within view of your horizon: 23 degrees north,
47 west. Take a look and see if you see anything worth noting up there. Over.
03 04 58 34 CDR Both looking.
03 04 58 36 CC Roger. Out.
03 05 03 01 LMP Houston, 11. It might help us a little bit if you could give us a time of crossing of
03 05 03 09 CC Say again, please, 11.
03 05 03 23 LMP You might give us a time of crossing of 45 west, and then we'll know when to
start searching for Aristarchus.
03 05 03 32 CC Roger. You'll be crossing 45 west at 77 04 10 or about 40 seconds from now. Over.
Thirty seconds from now.
03 05 03 45 LMP Okay.
03 05 04 50 CC Apollo 11, when we lose the S-band, we'd like to get OMNI Charlie from you.
And update my last, that 77 04 was the time when Aristarchus should
become visible over your horizon. 77 12 is point of closest approach south of it.
03 05 05 14 LMP Okay. That sounds better because we just went by Copernicus a little bit ago.
03 05 05 18 CC Roger. We show you at about 27 degrees longitude right now.
03 05 05 25 LMP Righto.
03 05 07 07 LMP Houston, when a star sets up here, there's no doubt about it. One instant it's there, and the next instant it's just completely gone.
03 05 07 16 CC Roger. We copy.
03 05 09 21 CC Apollo 11, this is Houston. We request you use OMNI Charlie at this time. Over.
03 05 09 29 LMP Okay. Going to OMNI Charlie.
03 05 09 32 CC Roger. Out.
03 05 11 57 LMP Houston, Apollo 11.
03 05 12 01 CC Apollo 11, this is Houston. Go ahead.
03 05 12 06 LMP Roger. Seems to me since we know orbits so precisely, and know where the stars are so precisely, and the time of setting of a star or a planet to so very fine a
degree, that this might be a pretty good means of measuring the altitude of the
03 05 12 32 CC Roger.
03 05 12 51 CMP Hey, Houston. I'm looking north up toward Aristarchus now, and I can't really tell at that distance whether I am really looking at Aristarchus, but there's an area that
is considerably more illuminated than the surrounding area. It just has - seems to
have a slight amount of fluorescence to it. A crater can be seen, and the area
around the crater is quite bright.
03 05 13 30 CC Roger, 11. We copy.
03 05 14 23 LMP Houston, Apollo 11. Looking up at the same area now and it does seem to be
reflecting some of the earthshine. I'm not sure whether it was worked
out to be about zero phase to - Well, at least there is one wall of the crater that
seems to be more illuminated than the others, and that one - if we are lining up
with the Earth correctly, does seem to put it about at zero phase. That area is
definitely lighter than anything else that I could see out this window. I am not sure
that I am really identifying any phosphorescence, but that definitely is lighter than
anything else in the neighborhood.
03 05 15 15 CC 11, this is Houston. Can you discern any difference in color of the illumination,
and is that an inner or an outer wall from the crater? Over.
03 05 15 34 CMP Roger. That's an inner wall of the crater.
03 05 15 43 LMP No, there doesn't appear to be any color involved in it, Bruce.
03 05 15 47 CC Roger. You said inner wall. Would that be the inner edge of the northern surface?
03 05 16 00 CMP I guess it would be the inner edge of the westnorthwest part, the part that would be more nearly normal if you were looking at it from the Earth.