Tycho Crater is the youngest large impact crater on the Moon's nearside. It is a prominent target for future exploration that is designed to determine (i) the chronology of impact events in recent Earth-Moon history and (ii) the geologic processes that produce complex impact craters. Tycho Crater is 85 kilometers in diameter and is surrounded by rays of ejecta that are spread across much of the Moon's nearside. One such ray crosses the Apollo 17 landing site, 2000 kilometers from Tycho. Arrival of this material from Tycho may have triggered a landslide from the mountains surrounding the Apollo 17 landing site. Laboratory analyses of samples collected from this landslide suggest that Tycho's age is about 100 million years, but this is a tentative age that needs to be tested with samples from Tycho. Multiple ponds of impact-melt-bearing debris and other impact deposits can be seen in the flyover, providing good targets for future exploration.
Because Tycho is so well preserved, it also provides a special opportunity for astronauts and their robotic assistants to answer questions about the geology of a complex crater: How much impact melt is produce? How many types of impact rocks are produced and where are they deposited? How deeply does the crater excavate the crust of the Moon? How high is the structural uplift that produces the crater's central peak? As seen in the flyover, the geologic units produced by the impact are far better exposed than they are at any impact site on Earth, so Tycho represents an extraordinary opportunity to learn about the processes that have affected all planets, including Earth.
In addition to providing information about the chronology and formation processes of complex craters, studies of Tycho will also reveal information about the lunar interior. Cross-sections of the Moon's upper crust are exposed in the crater walls. Fragments of deeper rock units were excavated and deposited on the surface in the ejected blanket. In addition, the central peak represents rock dredged up from beneath the crater floor. Hints of diverse rock units in the central peak are visible in the flyover. If astronauts and their robotic assistants collect those materials, geologists will be able to reconstruct the lunar interior beneath Tycho and test models for the formation and differentiation of the Moon.
The imagery for this virtual flyover comes from the KAGUYA Terrain Camera (TC). The TC is a push-broom stereoscopic imager with forward-looking and aft-looking optical heads with slant angles of ± 15° from nadir. The spatial resolution of TC is 10 m/pixel from the KAGUYA nominal altitude of 100 km. The digital terrain model underlying the virtual flyover is derived from the TC stereoscopic imagery of the region. For more information about the Terrain Camera (TC) and other KAGUYA instruments please visit JAXA's KAGUYA website.
Provided by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
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