As the Moon reaches first quarter, and a day or two past, the Sun casts a dramatic shadow across the Mare Imbrium and a selection of prominent craters, mountains, and an unmistakable lunar valley. Even a tiny telescope will help you see these features as shown in the image above.
The crater Plato. Named after the great philosopher, this ancient crater, some 100km across, was formed by an immense meteor impact about 3.8 billion years ago. The floor of the crater has since been flooded with a smooth layer of lava. In a telescope in rock-steady sky at high magnification, some observers can see tiny craterlets in this hardened lava bed.
Montes Tenerife. Just south of Plato and on the northern edge of Mare Imbrium lie the scattered peaks of this mountain range, the highest of which reach extend some 2,400 meters above the surface.
Mare Imbrium. The “Sea of Rains” formed in the early days of the solar system when a proto-planet came to an unpromising end by smacking into the Moon. This impact site is one of the largest in the solar system.
Alpine Valley. The “Vallis Alpes” is the most prominent valley on the Moon. It extends about 165km from the Mare Imbrium to the edge of Mare Frigoris, the “Sea of Cold”. Its about 10km across at its widest point. The valley is likely a depressed geological fault called a graben that subsequently flooded with lava.
Montes Alpes. An unmistakable range of mountains named after the Swiss Alps. It runs from northwest of the crater Cassini to the crater Plato. The highest peak in the range is Mons Blanc which reaches about 3,600 meters above the surface.
Archimedes. A crater similar to Plato, Archimedes is about 80km in diameter and has a smooth floor of hardened lava. The crater has a striking triangular promontory to the south. It’s surrounded by smaller but still prominent craters Aristillus, Autolycus, and Timocharis. Another mountain range, Montes Archimedes, lies to the south.
Aristoteles. North of Mare Serenitatis (the “Sea of Serenity”) lies the 80km wide crater Aristoteles. Named after the famed Greek philosopher Aristotle, the crater has a lovely terraced wall and an uneven, rippled crater floor. The smaller but still prominent crater Eudoxus lies to the south.Share This: