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Orbiting Atlas #3: Tycho December 29, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in Orbiting Atlas.

Orbiting Atlas is a weekly series here  at Luna C/I looking at notable points in selenography—the geography of the Moon. Come by every Monday for an exploration of a different locale, and its potential regional signifigance :)

This week, it’s the hard-to-miss crater…


Perhaps the most conspicuous crater on the Moon, Tycho (named after Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe) sticks out like a sore thumb with its distinctive ray system. The rays are formed by ejecta from the original impact, and in fact, many of the surrounding craters themselves were created by wayward chunks of ejecta.

Apollo 17 took samples from one of the rays—more than 1,200 miles away! Surveyor 7 landed on the crater’s rim itself earlier, in 1967, recording a ton of mosiac imagery. The Apollo results confirmed that the crater is one of the moon’s youngest, at ~100 million years old.

I’m curious as to whether these rays may prove to have an interesting mix of resources—while the most valuable lunar resources (helium-3, water) collect on the surface from the outside, having such a spread of fairly young ejecta material could potentially make the Tycho region a popular mining spot.

My initial searches brought up more studies, though, in what makes the crater and its rays so shiny versus its potential mining value (mankind loves shiny objects? :) ). So this remains an open question, though geologist-astronaut Jack Schmitt from Apollo 17 is still around to ask :)

Speaking of interesting/shiny objects, Tycho was featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey as the location of the ominous buried monolith.

Tycho was also a location actually filmed, in spectacular  HD, by Japan’s Kaguya orbiter. Check out the flyby below:

And, stay tuned as more and more private companies shoot for the moon to see if one decides to check out Tycho’s rays for itself…


1. Orbiting Atlas #5: Baco « Luna C/I: Moon Colonization and Integration - January 11, 2010

[…] in the lunar highlands, about 380 miles southeast of the famous Tycho crater, the usually plain crater has taken on a new flavor of interest this past […]

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