The MoonZoo science team would like to extend a gigantic thank you to all 20,627 users who contributed in counting craters (and more!) relating to the Apollo 17 landing site (Taurus-Littrow)!
Let’s ponder on some astonishing numbers: to date, around 8.5 million craters in total have been marked by MoonZoo citizen scientists, with around 670,000 (~8%) relating to the A17 region (from 21 selected NAC images, Figure 1); further, 3.3% (22,063) of these craters have been classified as containing boulders and 6.9% (45,893) were found to be non-circular.
Our next step is to compare your input with the ‘expert’ count looking to validate and quantify your contributions. The ‘expert’ in question is a professional lunar scientist who has published research including the statistical occurrence of impact craters on planetary surfaces. The logical assumption is that given a more or less constant collision rate of interplanetary bodies (asteroids and comets), a surface will carry the record of impact products (craters and pits) as a function of time, i.e., from the time of resurface (maybe a lava mare flow) the scarring would be proportional to the length of exposure.
As most things in geology, this scenario is true but with caveats… : first, the resurfacing by lava flow or ejecta mantling might have only partially buried ancient craters, or, more probably, only the smaller ones, thus skewing the crater-size statistical record; crater rims erode with time, even on an airless body like the Moon, at a rate of around 0.06-1 cm per million year. This might not seem much, but in the lunar chronology scale, measured in billions of years, this factor becomes significant; in reality, the biggest source of uncertainty is represented by secondary craters: most impacts generate coherent distal ejecta that, when landed, produce smaller craters virtually indistinguishable from space-born ones. And this is fractal, i.e. scaled: big impacts will generate hundreds of smaller craters that will overlap with similar ones from nearby big impacts…
The hard reality is that there are no cast-iron methods to establish the origin of each excavation (although it has been advocated that a secondary crater might be somewhat shallower in comparison to a similarly-sized primary one). So, an ‘expert’ becomes so by developing a ‘sense’ or instinct on what ‘feels’ a statistically significant crater against one that is not. This approach is more akin to ‘artistic interpretation’ than ‘hard’ science, but qualitative investigation of certain geological features is an acceptable compromise when a physical method is either not yet available or even impossible to develop.
These considerations do not stop the development of alternative methodologies though; indeed, we are working closely with a research group at Manchester University which is building an automated pattern recognition software of circular features (and others) based on theoretical models, and actual data: ‘expert’ counts, AND MoonZoo users’ data.
Now, whatever approach brings us closer to a reliable crater counting method this cannot be easily accomplished by even a troupe of crater-counting planetary scientists: the 8.5 million craters noted by the MoonZoo community would have taken years to harvest otherwise!
So, what is going to happen now? Well, the ‘expert’ and pattern recognition software data will be compared with the MoonZoo output, uncertainties and limitations of all approaches established and, hopefully, develop a method that will represent the basis for ‘trusting blind’ the MoonZoo craters stats. In practice this will translate into something like “MoonZoo crater data are consistent with other methods for crater of sizes ‘x’ to ‘y’, in images with resolution higher than ‘z’ meters, and illumination of ‘n’ degrees or higher”.
Ultimately, the crater statistics (Cumulative Crater Frequency) plotted against known crater accumulation functions (i.e. Neukum, 1983, 2010) give us an estimate of the age of the lunar region. Using these data from landing sites allows for comparison with returned samples whose age has been established in the laboratory.
Our next journey will focus around the Apollo 12 landing site, in Mare Cognitum. The geology of this region is radically different from the Apollo 17 and it should serve as a perfect complement to our work so far. Elsewhere my colleagues will discuss and introduce the region in more detail, including ulterior scientific reasons behind the choice of this landing site.
We shall keep you informed of all further developments and new projects, and, once again, thanks for your patient and enthusiastic contribution to planetary science!
Michael G.G., Neukum G., Planetary surface dating from crater size-frequency distribution measurements: Partial resurfacing events and statistical age uncertainty, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2010, DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2009.12.041.
Neukum G., Meteoritenbombardement und Datierung planetarer Oberfl�chen. Habilitation Dissertation for Faculty Membership, Univ. of Munich, 186pp, 1983.
Over on Planet Four Talk moderator wassock found this Martian double crater in the HiRise images:
which can only have been created by 2 simultaneous impacts.
He messaged me to ask if we had found anything similar on the Moon and also sent a further image of a laboratory test of a high velocity simultaneous impact by 2 objects:
Here are some lunar doubles:
Messier A (on the left – most likely created by separate events)
None of these examples has the distinctive “equatorial” ejecta pattern of first 2 images which I have never seen on the Moon. Why might that be? Well, we know that Mars and the Moon differ geologically so maybe the type of impacted surface and bedrock plays a role. Did the impact take place when Mars was much wetter/ muddier than it is now? Mars also has a more dynamic atmosphere. Would any of these differences account for the distinctive formation of the Martian doubles and ejecta pattern? Maybe the angle and velocity of impact is relevant here too and these double craters form only from high velocity overhead impacts. Wassock says he has found more Martian examples. On a quick look at ACT-REACT quick map I can’t find any lunar equivalents. Can you?
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will soon have been orbiting the Moon for 4 years. Here’s a reminder of ten cool things it “saw” in its first year.
From NASA’s mission pages.
|The coldest place in the solar system
Astronauts first steps on the Moon
Apollo14 and the near miss of cone crater
Lukhnod 1 found
LOLA’s Lunar farside
Craters and boulders with Moon Zoo
Pits and skylights
Areas of Near Constant Sunlight at the South Pole
Kaguya – NASA
Forum regular JJ went hunting for the Japanese lunar explorer Kaguya impact site. Kaguya (or SELENE: SELenological and ENgineering Explorer) was launched 14 September 2007. Once in lunar orbit Kaguya released two smaller satellites into separate elliptical polar orbits: Okina (a relay satellite for communications) and Ouna (a Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) radio source satellite for supporting radio measurements). As well as its 2 sub-satellites Kaguya carried 13 scientific instruments including a lunar Magnetometer, a Gamma ray spectrometer, a Lunar Radar Sounder and an Earth-looking Upper Atmosphere and Plasma Imager. the mission lasted 18 months after which Kayuya was sent into a series of lunar orbits prior to a controlled impact on 10 June 2009. The impact site was conveniently in darkness at the time allowing the impact flash to be seen from Earth. Okina impacted on the far side on February 12 2009. Ouna is still in orbit.
The Kaguya mission amongst other things has improved lunar global topography maps (also used by Google to make Google Moon 3D), a detailed gravity map of the far side, and the first optical observation of the permanently shadowed interior of south pole Shackleton crater.
The Kaguya impact coordinates are well documented but we couldn’t recall seeing a high resolution view of the impact site from LRO. What JJ was looking for was a small fresh impact which would have exposed some fresh lunar regolith leaving a white scar with a blackened centre where debris may remain.
The Kaguya website gives the impact coordinates as E80.4, S65.5. Here’s the location:
This indicates an impact site on the wall of an unnamed crater near crater Gill. Part of crater Gill is top left of this image provided by ESA:
Using the ACT-REACT Quick Map tool JJ located the unnamed crater.
And found a likely impact site on the rim of a smaller crater within the unnamed crater.
And finally – a potential impact site with a centre geodetic diameter of 23m:
We think it’s definitely a contender.
Shamelessly copied from today’s LPOD (Lunar Photo of the Day), this is the Customs and Immigration form signed by Apollo 11 astronauts after returning from the Moon. Yes – even the first lunar visitors had to go through customs on the way back!
My favourite bit:
“Any other condition on board which may lead to the spread of disease:
TO BE DETERMINED”
This week we have a mystery from the 1950s which we may be able to help resolve.
An amateur astronomer from Oklahoma, Dr. Leon Stuart, photographed a bright flare on the surface of the Moon while tinkering with his new camera in November 1953. The flare or flash was close to the Moon’s terminator and near the centre of the Moon’s face (see following image) and lasted for approximately eight seconds. Dr. Stuart published his photograph and description of the sighting in The Strolling Astronomer newsletter in 1956. He remained convinced until the end of his life that he had seem an asteroid impact the Moon’s surface but most astronomers were skeptical and said that the flash was either a meteor burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere which just happened to appear as if it was an impact on the Moon, or it was a problem with the film in the camera.
Dr. Stuart logged the event as follows:
Made by Dr. Leon Stuart, Nov. 15, 1953 at 01:00 UT. Lasted 8 to 10 sec. Also observed visually. Star images rather steady, no extraneous lights. Exposure: 1/2 sec. on E.K. 103aF3 plate. 8 inch f/8 reflector.
Position on Lunar surface is about 10 miles S.E. of Pallas. (-0.5; +.08).
Photo from Dr. Leon Stuart
Within astronomy circles Dr. Stuart’s impact was known as Stuart’s Event and was mostly ignored until recently (2002) when two scientists took an interest in this 50-year old mystery. Dr. Bonnie J. Buratti, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and Lane Johnson of Pomona College, Claremont, California, researched the event and their findings included some very persuasive evidence which indicated that Stuart’s photo was indeed real and is of immense historical value.
Stuart’s remarkable photograph of the collision gave us an excellent starting point in our search, we were able to estimate the energy produced by the collision. But we calculated that any crater resulting from the collision would have been too small to be seen by even the best Earth-based telescopes, so we looked elsewhere for proof. Using Stuart’s photograph of the lunar flash, we estimated the object that hit the Moon was approximately 20 meters (65.6 feet) across, and the resulting crater would be in the range of one to two kilometers (.62 to 1.24 miles) across. We were looking for fresh craters with a non-eroded appearance. [Dr. Bonnie Buratti]
The two scientists decided to search for the crater using images taken from spacecraft orbiting the Moon. They had no luck with images from the Lunar Orbiter in 1967 but they did find a likely candidate in the images returned by the Clementine 1994 mission. It was a 1.5km wide crater with a fresh-looking layer of material surrounding the crater and the size was consistent with the energy from the observed flash.
Photo Courtesy JPL, Dr. Bonnie Buratti, Lane Johnson
At this point it appears that the mystery has been solved but there are detractors who have found images of the Buratti/Lane crater in photos taken by two ground based telescopes before 1953, which rules out that crater as having been formed by Stuart’s Event. It was also ruled out by the editors of Sky and Telescope magazine who carefully measured the image of Stuart’s Event and determined that it was centred 30km from the Clementine candidate.
Maybe the Moon Zoo users can find this elusive crater if it exists! The following image shows the general area where the flash was seen. The final link under the “References” heading below contains coordinates of where the impact may have occurred.
Unfortunately, it appears that there is not complete coverage of the area by LRO – some areas do not have NAC images so the search will be difficult.
If you do find any candidates for Stuart’s Crater please post them in the Moon Zoo forum.
A good overview of the whole story with images of the event will be found here:
Stuart’s Event, Bright Flare, November 15, 1953
The following journal contains a re-publication of the original Strolling Astronomer article by Dr. Leon Stuart (page 21)
Journal of the Association of Lunar & Planetary Observers, Vol 45 Number 2
This strange link contains more images of Stuart’s Event and also coordinates of where the impact may have occurred. Scroll down within the page and it has maps of the lunar surface with the area where the impact is suspected to have occurred highlighted.
1956 Lunar Path Light?
The Apollo Lunar Surface Journal contains hundreds of images. Dig deep and you can find some surprises. Take this secret moon base for example. Note the circular access road and the living quarters annex at 11 o’clock.
Because that’s what it is – right? Wrong! A classic case of mis-direction and jumping to (very wrong) conclusions! Far from being yet another lunar conspiracy target this is actually a photo of the Apollo 15 Command and Service Module in lunar orbit over the Sea of Serenity. It was taken from the Lunar Module just before it began landing manoeuvres. You can see half of Bessel crater on the right in the image below.
More images can be found on the Apollo 15 page. Be careful how you interpret them!
In January 2013, Moon Zoo user jaroslavp posted some interesting images in the Interesting terrain thread.
The images are from the base of the North Massif feature, close to where the Apollo 17 astronauts landed in the Taurus-Littrow valley. This image gives an overview of the NAC image from which the other images were taken (Note: North is at the bottom!):
The following images are from the marked area.
This image shows two areas with irregular boundaries – I can’t imagine what sort of process formed them.
NAC: M162107606RE Latitude = 20.2 Longitude = 30.7
Close to the previous image is this area showing odd striations and cross-hatching on the surface, possibly caused by entrained debris flow from an impact event. This may also explain the strange features in the previous image. The impact event that created the Serenitatis Basin may have been the event responsible.
Jules recently posted an Image of the Week about the Taurus-Littrow valley which has a great overview image showing the North and South Massifs: Moon landing at Taurus-Littrow
The LRO took many images of the Apollo 17 landing site at Taurus-Littrow. Here is a glorious oblique “spaceship-eye” view of the Sculptured Hills and massifs surrounding the landing site taken from from M1096343661R and L. The position of the Lunar Module is marked on the second image.
A puzzle for you this week. Can you tell the difference between a moon, a planet and minor planet? Below are images of craters on our Moon, Vesta and Mercury but which is which? Superficially very similar but there are differences. Click on the letters below for links to reveal the answers.
Don’t peek until you have had a guess!