Friday, January 23, 2009

But where's the Monolith?

Grab a set of 3d glasses (those red and blue ones) and take a look at this video from the Japanese Space Agency's Kaguya (Selene for those gaijin among us) lunar probe.

So, what are you looking's a stereo image of the Tycho crater on the moon. If that name sounds familiar, it's named after 17th century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. It was also the spot where, in Arthur C. Clark's 2001 where the TMA-1 monolith was uncovered. It's the white spot in the lower center of the picture on the left.

Tycho Crater is the result of a large impact that's fairly young as lunar craters go, a mere 108 million years. Take a moment to think about that, the impact that created the crater happened when the dinosaurs were strolling through the park. Imaging the view they had of a huge flash of light on the surface of the moon. They could probably see the huge ejecta splash that formed that white ray system that makes Tycho so easy to see.

One of the very cool things about looking at Tycho is the central mountain peak. It was formed when the crater was made. When the impactor hit the lunar surface, the incredible pressure and energy imparted liquefied the lunar crust and so it behaved in the same way dropping a pebble into a pond does, by sending out ripples and making a splash. That splash of molten rock is what has formed the central mountain peak.

Our closest neighbor is a still a pretty cool place.