Taken by the LROC camera on board the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, this image shows a detailed look at the mountains within Cabeus Crater – the region where the LCROSS’ Centaur stage rocket impacted to send up a plume of water-rich lunar soil.
Many of the shadows seen here are permanent fixtures. The Moon’s orbit and rotation prevent sunlight from ever illuminating their blackness, and thus they are the coldest known places in our solar system. With temperatures dropping close to 400º F below zero, they harbor frozen water ice and many other elements collected by the Moon via impacts since the time of its creation, over 4 billion years ago.
Unlike mountains on Earth, formed over many years by volcanic activity or over millennia by plate tectonics, most lunar mountains were formed suddenly by the explosive power of impacts by meteorites and comets.
The view shown here is about 9.3 miles wide at the foreground. The entire zoomable panorama can be seen at the Arizona State University’s LROC site here.
Read the LRO image release here.
Image: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University