The north-looking oblique image illustrates the
hummocky or uneven texture of much of the crater floor and the terraces
and debris flows along the crater wall. Although this image was hailed as
the "Photo of the Century" when it was returned in 1966, a 1972 Apollo
17 photo of Copernicus proved even more spectacular.
The image above is an Earth-Based Telescopic Image by John Sussenbach, showing some interesting shadows in this overhead view of Copernicus.
Top of page: The middle third of Copernicus. This photograph, facing due north across the central portion of Copernicus was made at 0:05 U.T., November 24, 1966, using the telephoto lens of Orbiter II. The Orbiter cameras and their techniques are described briefly in Chapter 19. Because of the expanse of sky, this picture, unlike the others in this book, is printed with north up. Orbiter was about 48 km above the surface and roughly 250 km south of the center of Copernicus. The east-west diameter of the part shown is approximately 30 km and is a bit less than a third of the crater's diameter. The rounded mountain in the upper left-hand corner is the ringed plain Gay Lussac. Comparison with Plate 7-2 shows, on each, the row of isolated central mountains. Each picture also reveals that the floor to the north of that row is smoother than it is to the south. The projection of the southern rim of Copernicus against the floor causes it to stand out in sharp contrast. The northern rim, very roughly 100 km farther away, is much less conspicuous. A long, wide, east-west valley can be observed plainly in the northern wall, crossing most of the picture. In even the best-made photographs from the earth's observatories, the valley appears as a mere terrace near the upper part of the wall. Probably it is a graben, formed during the subsidence which modified the original form of the crater.
Lunar students, almost unanimously, believe that at least the initial form of Copernicus was due to the impact of a small asteroid, or giant meteoroid. This excited internal forces which brought about a series of caldera-like collapses that enlarged the floor and left the wall terraces as scars. (See page 117). But although Apollo astronauts have explored many kinds of lunar terrain, they have not landed near such large craters as Copernicus, and it will take years to work out their full history.
Pictorial Guide To The Moon
The Santa Cruz conference "devised one plan that called for two men to spend three days exploring the central peak and floor of Copernicus. Except for the suggested use of the LFU, this was similar to a mission considered for Copernicus until nearly the end of the Apollo program. Field studies of astroblemes on Earth were showing that peaks bring up material from strata beneath the crater floor, and Orbiter 2's Picture of the Century had shown a 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."
To A Rocky Moon
Don E. Wilhelms
These breath-taking images may soon be obsolete. The TransOrbital Moon shot planned this year (if all goes as planned) will provide live, low altitude, high-definition, barnstorming TV images of the lunar surface. The mission calls for a two month mapping orbit with a hard landing of a "time capsule".
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