Best image of mighty Copernicus attained to-date for The Lunascan Project,
 made by Charles Genovese, with a 10" f/6 Newtonian and eyepiece projection.

Copernicus is a spectacular ring mountain, one of the most prominent centers of bright radiating rays on the Moon (see below). The terraced walls are elevated 900 meters above the surrounding terrain. The depth of the crater is about 3750 m,  and its diameter about 93 km or 58 miles. On the inner side of the wall numerous landslides are found. The crater's shape is approximately hexagonal. A group of central mountains rise to 400 m above the floor. North is at the top.

In the above 220k GIF note the radial ridges and mounds and cones around the crater. Note, the keyhole shaped Fauth crater sits atop one of the ridges 60 km south of Copernicus.  (Lunar Orbiter 2, frame M-162)

November 24, 1966. The above image is a stacked (1,2,3), full resolution (141k) Lunar Orbiter 2 oblique northward view towards Copernicus. The central peaks are visible towards the top of the image, rising about 400 m above the crater floor, and stretching for about 15 km. The northern wall of the crater is in the background. This image is a combination of 3 high-resolution frames, the topmost frame is available separately as lo2_h162_3. (Lunar Orbiter 2, frame 162; H1, H2, and H3). Distance/Range (km): 130.

The Picture of the Century

The next image is the full res 301k image by Lunar Orbiter 2, the  oblique northward view of the interior of the 100 km diameter Copernicus. This is the top frame of a set of 3 adjoining high resolution frames, which are available in image lo2_h162_123. (Lunar Orbiter 2, frame 162-H3). The close-up oblique view of the crater shows details of the floor, the central mountains, and the northern wall. Flow lines, ridges and troughs running down the far wall indicate that material has moved downslope, off the walls and onto the floor. Large blocks litter the slopes of the central mountains which rise 400 meters above the floor. The dark band dipping down the eastern side of the mountain near the center appears to be a ledge of lunar bedrock that has weathered under the influence of the space environment to produce some of the blocks. (2) You're looking at one-third of the crater width with one crater wall behind you!!! The mountains you see are the peaks in the other photos.

The 28-member geology working group of the Santa Cruz conference (1967) had studied Lunar Orbiter 4's photos. They devised one plan that called for two men to spend three days exploring the central peak and floor of Copernicus. Field studies of astroblemes on Earth were showing that peaks bring up material from strata beneath the crater floor, and Lunar Orbiter 2's Picture of the Century, had shown that ledge in the Copernicus peak that could be an outcrop of such a layer. Most people still thought they saw a variety of volcanic features on the crater floor. This Apollo mission was dropped from the list. (3)

Although the image above was hailed as the "Photo of the Century" when it was returned in 1966, a 1972 Apollo 17 photo of Copernicus (AS17-151-23260) was even more spectacular.

December, 1972. Southward looking oblique view of Mare Imbrium and Copernicus crater on the Moon.

Copernicus crater is seen almost edge-on near the horizon at the center. The crater is 107 km in diameter and is centered at 9.7 N, 20.1 W. In the foreground is Mare Imbrium, peppered  with secondary crater chains and elongated craters due to the Copernicus impact. The large crater near the center of the image is the 20 km diameter Pytheas, at 20.5 N, 20.6 W. At the upper edge of the Mare Imbrium are the Montes Carpatus. The distance from the upper edge of the frame to the center of Copernicus is about 400 km. This picture was taken by the metric camera on Apollo 17. (Apollo 17, AS-2444) Full resolution size: 376k

How old is Copernicus?

The light gray, 450-g trench sample (12033) found at the Apollo 12 site may have provided a clue that everyone wanted to know, the age of Copernicus. Three geochronologic methods give about the same result, averaging about 810 million years. (4) Extrapolating from this age and other ages determined by means of crater counts and crater morphologies we have learned that maria (lunar "seas") continued to form on the Moon until almost the time of the Copericus impact. (5)

May 1967. In this overview image, Copernicus is at the lower left. Just beyond the rim of the crater, ejecta from the crater is present in the form of a continuous ejecta blanket. At greater distances from the crater, ejecta occurs as discontinuous clumps. Chains of secondary impact craters are visible in the central part of the image and are shown in greater detail in one of the following images.

This LO5 image (5lo-151m) taken in August of 1967 provides a close-up of the interior of Copernicus. The prominent structures near the center of the image are the central peaks, which are common in craters of this size. Some consideration was given to having an Apollo mission land to the north of the central peaks with the objective of sampling one of the peaks, which may be material thrust up from deep in the Moon's crust. The inner part of the crater walls are broken up into a series of terraces.

An even closer, close-up image of the interior of Copernicus taken by Lunar Orbiter 5.

For the the latest great images and information on Section 31, click here:

 Section 31 Directory

This web page was produced by The Lunascan Project, whose Home Page is located at:
Home Page