Moon ~ Aristarchus Crater and Plateau

Clip from Mike Deegan's Full Moon Mosaic

When the Lights were on....

No Moon story is complete without adding a little conspiracy. In the case of Aristarchus Crater and Plateau there are many odd stories and interesting details. Long the site of TLP's (Transient Lunar Phenomenon)
, Aristarchus is a real enigma. The photo above is a clipping from a large mosaic taken by Mike Deegan of Mike's Astroimagery UK in London. Mike Deegan is not much into moon conspiracy but has managed to take one of the best images of the moon we have ever seen using a small telescope. That image is available in a high resolution poster. (see below) Coverage of the Aristarchus region anomalies is available here;

Aristarchus ~ The Day The Lights Were On

Aristarchus Crater and Plateau Region Topographic Map

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

Click here to download a 72dpi JPEG image (4.4MB )

Click here to download a 150dpi JPEG image ( 19MB )

Click here to download a 300dpi JPEG 2000 image ( 48M) (Requires JPEG 2000 viewer)

Aristarchus Crater and Plateau Region Available Lot Map

PARCEL: SOL03A-03-0100-000000-W-GRID
1800+ Lots Available in this region
Aristarchus Crater Inset in Blue Reserved

Credit: John T. Fountain Sr

With Grid
Without Grid


Aristarchus Crater and Plateau Region History

Courtesy: US NAVY/Clementine Satellite

Aristarchus, named after the Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos, is a prominent lunar impact crater that lies in the northwest part of the Moon's near side. It is considered the brightest of the large formations on the lunar surface, with an albedo nearly double that of most lunar features. The feature is bright enough to be visible to the naked eye, and is dazzling in a large telescope. It is also readily identified when most of the lunar surface is illuminated by earthshine.

The crater is located at the southeastern edge of the Aristarchus plateau, an elevated area that contains a number of volcanic features, such as sinuous rilles. This area is also noted for the large number of reported transient lunar phenomena, as well as recent emissions of radon gas as measured by the Lunar Prospector spacecraft.

Aristarchus ~ The Day The Lights Were On


The Lunar Prospector Alpha Particle
Spectrometer (LP APS) searched for lunar surface gas release events and mapped their distribution by detecting alpha particles produced by the decay of gaseous radon-222 (5.5 MeV, 3.8 day half-life), solid polonium-218 (6.0 MeV, 3 minute half-life), and solid polonium-210 (5.3 MeV, 138 day half-life, but held up in production by the 21 year half-life of lead-210).

These three nuclides are radioactive daughters from the
decay of uranium-238. Radon reaches the lunar surface either at areas of high soil porosity or where fissures release the trapped gases in which radon is entrained. Once released, the radon spreads out by “bouncing” across the surface on ballistic trajectories in a random-walk process. The half-life of radon-222 allows the gas to spread out by several 100 km before it decays (depositing approximately half of the polonium-218 recoil nuclides on the lunar surface) and allows the APS to detect gas release events up to several days after they occur. The long residence time
of the lead-210 precursor to polonium-210 allows the mapping of gas vents which have been active over the last approximately 60 years. Because radon and polonium are daughter products of the decay of uranium, the background level of alpha particle activity is a function of the lunar crustal uranium distribution.

Using radioactive radon and polonium as tracers, the Apollo 15 and 16 Command Module orbital alpha particle experiments obtained evidence for the release of gases at several sites beneath the orbit tracks, especially over the Aristarchus Plateau and Mare Fecunditatis. Aristarchus crater had previously been identified by ground-based observers as the site of transient optical events. The Apollo 17 surface mass spectrometer showed that argon-40 is released from the lunar interior every few months, apparently in concert with some of the shallow moonquakes that are believed to be of tectonic origin.

The latter tectonic
events could be associated with very young scarps identified in the lunar highlands [4] and are believed to
indicate continued global contraction. Such quakes could open fissures leading to the release of gases that are trapped below the surface. A primary goal of the APS was to map gas-release events, thus allowing both an appraisal of the current level of tectonic activity on the Moon and providing a probe of subsurface uranium concentrations


Transient Lunar Phenomena on the Aristarchus Plateau

Image created by NASA

This map displays an approximate distribution of transient lunar phenomenon. It is based on a monochrome map by Barbara Middlehurst and Patrick Moore that was published in the book, On the Moon, 2001, Cassel & Co., ISBN 0304354694. Red dots indicate TLP that appeared to the observer as a reddish cloud. Yellow dots are all other events.

When the Lights were on....

Aristarchus Crater has mystified both astronomers and scientists since the 1500's. In fact the NASA catalog of Lunar Transient Phenomena records them as early as;
  • 1650  Aristarchus  "Red Hill." Mons Porphyrites  Hevelius  B.A.A. Lunar Sec. Circa. 1967, 2, No 8
  • 1784  Aristarchus  Nebulous bright spot of light  Schroter  Schroter 1791
  • 1785  Aristarchus  Nebulous bright spot of light  Schroter  Schroter 1791
  • 1786 Dec 24  Aristarchus  Extraordinarily bright  Schroter  Schroter 1791
  • 1787 May 19-20  Aristarchus  Extraordinarily bright  von Bruhl  Bode 1790; Schroter 1791; Herschel 1912
  • 1788 Apr 9  Aristarchus; 1 hr  Extraordinarily bright  Bode  Bode 1792b
These are a few of the early observations. As you can see by the few sample images we have on this page, our "Touch of Conspiracy" page for Aristarchus Crater is titled;

Aristarchus ~ The Day The Lights Were On
So if you want to see the Moon in a different light, check out our page that goes from actual observations to outlandish ideas. Whether you believe the stories or prefer the more main stream approach, one thing is certain. Aristarchus Crater and the region surrounding it is still an unsolved mystery

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Aristarchus Crater and Plateau ~ Moon ~ SOL03A-03-0100-000000