Kitt Peak Nightly Observing Program
Splendors of the Universe on YOUR Night!
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Near the lunar south pole, in the rugged Southern Highlands, you can find the second largest crater on the Nearside of the Moon. Clavius looks very oblong, due to heavy foreshortening, but is a 230 km wide circular crater. It is heavily scarred by younger craters
Copernicus is a large, conspicuous crater located in the Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms). It has extensive rays of ejecta spanning hundreds of kilometers from the rim of the crater. This crater is likely to be only hundreds of millions of years old—young for a lunar crater.
Because of its very smooth, dark floor, Plato is a very distinct crater, seen just north of Mare Imbrium. Plato is 101 km across, and the peaks of the rim rise 2,000 meters above the floor.
Tycho is a prominent crater on the Moon—but it doesn’t stand out because of its size. At 85 km in diameter it is one of thousands of craters on the Moon its size and larger. Tycho stands out because of its rays. Crater rays are formed by ejecta—dust and debris ejected from the surface during and impact event, that spreads upwards and outwards, and eventually settles back down on the surface to leave behind radial spikes around newly formed craters. Prominent and extensive rays suggest that a crater is fresher, or more recently formed. Tycho may be as young as 108 million years old. That may sound old, but craters on the Moon can remain for billions of years.
Mare Crisium is distinctly seperated from all of the other maria on the near side of the Moon, making it easy to distinguish. This round feature on the Moon is nearing the eastern limb, and so, is severly foreshortened—meaning, we are not looking at it straigh on, but at an angle.
The Mare Imbrium Impact Basin formed when a large object crashed into the Moon 3.9 billion years ago. subsurface lava rose to flood the giant crater, eventually solidifying into a younger, smoother terrain. Prominent features of Mare Imbrium include the crater Plato to the north, with a dark crater floor; Sinus Iridum (meaning Bay of Rainbows) to the northwest, with the Montes Jura mountain range forming a distinct C-shaped knob on the edge of the mare; and the 3 mountain ranges—Montes Alpes, Caucasus, and Apenninus—that mark the eastern edge of the mare.
Jupiter and the Galilean Moons
Jupiter is the largest and most massive planet in our Solar System. All of the other planets combined would not have as much mass as Jupiter. In even a small telescope, some of Jupiter’s stripes can be seen. Jupiter’s darker stripes are known as bands, and its lighter stripes are known as zones. Swirling storms appear as spots—sometimes visible through telescopes. Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot is generally visible when its on the side of Jupiter facing toward Earth.
Jupiter’s four largest moons are known as the Galilean Moons, named for Galileo, who was the first astronomer to study them in depth and determine that they were orbiting Jupiter. Their individual names are Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto—in orbital order from closest to Jupiter to furthest out. Ganymede is the largest of these four moons, and is the largest moon in our Solar System. Io, the closest of these four moons to Jupiter, is the most volcanic world in our Solar System. Io is home to hundreds of active volcanos. Its neighbor, and the next furthest from Jupiter of the four, Europa, is a dramatic contrast to Io with its icy surface. Europa is covered by water, which is frozen solid at the surface. The furthest our of the four, Callisto is a fascinating world in our Solar System because it is so utterly geologically dead. Without weather, moonquakes, volcanism, or any other surface-altering processes, Callisto’s surface is billions of years old—a kind of record of the history of the Solar System.
The mountain range Montes Alpes is one of the prominent mountain ranges along the eastern border of Mare Imbrium. The range is named for the Alps on Earth, and the peak Mons Blanc is named for the tallest peak in the Alps of Earth—though Mons Blanc is actually the 3rd tallest peak of the Lunar Alpes. The range culminates to the south in the Promontorium Agassiz. To the north, the range terminates just shy of dark-floored crater Plato.
The Montes Apenninus, named for the Apennine Mountains in Italy, is a mountain range along the southeastern rim of the Mare Imbrium Impact basin (Sea of Showers). The Montes Apenninus contain some of the tallest mountains on the Near Side of the Moon.
The Montes Carpatus form part of the southern rim of the Mare Imbrium (Sea of Showers). To their south is the famous crater Copernicus.
Vallis Alpes is a wide, 180 km long valley. It’s western end is in the Montes Alpes at the northeastern edge of the Mare Imbrium, and its western end terminates at the edge of the northern Mare Frigoris. This split in the lunar crust probably formed in response to the impact that created the Imbrium Basin. At the floor of the Alpine Valley is a long rille from which lava once erupted.
The web page for the program in which you just participated is at
Nightly Observing Program. Most of the above images were taken as
the Overnight Telescope Observing Program. For more information on this unique experience please visit Overnight Telescope Observing Program.
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