Embark on an astronomical journey as we explore the fascinating Tycho Crater, one of the most prominent features on the lunar surface. Named after the legendary Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, this crater is a captivating spectacle for skywatchers and a popular subject for astrophotographers worldwide.
Born from a celestial impact, Tycho Crater’s origins are a testament to the Moon’s lack of atmospheric defense, allowing even minor space debris to leave significant impressions on its surface. With its impressive diameter of 86 km (53.4 miles) and depth of 4.8 km (2.98 miles), Tycho stands as a remarkable testament to the Moon’s geological history.
In this article, we delve into the captivating details of Tycho Crater, from its formation to its unique features and its significance in the field of astronomy. Join us as we traverse the lunar landscape, uncovering the secrets of this striking lunar landmark.
Basic Facts About Lunar Crater Tycho
- Coordinates43.31°S 11.36°W
- Diameter86 km (53.4 miles)
- Depth4.8 km (2.98 miles)
- Colongitude12° at sunrise
- EponymTycho Brahe
Tycho (/ˈtaɪkoʊ/) is a prominent lunar impact crater found in the southern lunar highlands. It is estimated to be 108 million years old. And south of Tycho is Crater Street, and to the east is Pictet. To the north-northeast, you will find Sasserides. Furthermore, the surface around Tycho is peppered with craters of various sizes.
Many are overlapping older Moon craters. Some of the more minor impacts are secondary craters produced from larger pieces of ejecta from Tycho.
Tycho Crater Measures About 4800 Meters Deep
When the Moon shows a phase, Tycho displays the magnificent scale of its central crater. It has a diameter of 85 km (53 miles) and a depth of 4,800 m (15,700 ft). And as mentioned before, the Tycho crater measures about 4800 meters deep from the rim to the floor, and that’s more than twice the depth of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. And it is one of the Moon’s most glowing craters.
Measured from sea level and placed on Tycho’s floor, Pike’s Peak in Colorado would fall half a kilometer short of Tycho’s rim, while snowy Mont Blanc in the French Alps would reach hedge. Moon crater Tycho is mapped as part of the Copernican System.
Why Was the Crater Called Tycho?
Moon crater Tycho is named after the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546–1601).
Like numerous craters on the Moon’s near side, it was named by the Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Riccioli, whose 1651 classification system has become standardized.
Earlier lunar cartographers had given the Moon crater Tycho different names. Pierre Gassendi called it Umbilicus Lunaris (‘the navel of the Moon’).
Michael van Langren’s 1645 map calls it “Vladislai IV” after Władysław IV Vasa, King of Poland. And Johannes Hevelius named it ‘Mons Sinai’ after Mount Sinai.
What is the Age of Crater Tycho?
Moon crater Tycho is a comparatively young crater with a calculated age of 108 million years. This is based on analyzing different samples of the crater ray recovered during the Apollo 17 mission.
Its age initially implied that the impactor might have been one of the Baptistina family asteroids.
But, as the structure and composition of the impactor is unknown, this remained only a theory.
However, this probability was ruled out by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer in 2011, as it was discovered that the Baptistina family was created much later than expected, having formed around 80 million years ago.
Description of Lunar Crater Tycho
In contrast to Earth, our Moon has been inactive over extended geological timescales and has no atmosphere, leaving the persistent impact cratering to remain over long periods. The Moon cratering record spans its entire shelling history – from the lunar’s origins to today.
Our very own satellite waxes to full-on March 1, and its most famous crater, Tycho, is generously tipped into view for the entire week. Tycho crater is one of the rare lunar craters you can see with the naked eye. If you stare considerately at it, you’ll see a small, unresolved bright spot about a quarter of the way from the southern lunar limb.
The South Side of Tycho Crater
The image below shows Tycho in mid-afternoon when it’s the mountainous western (left) rim, and terraces and a complex central peak have been created to cast dramatic shadows inside the crater.
Also, the red outline embeds the pattern of Tycho’s southern rim, floor, and flank in the long anaglyph near the bottom of this post. The Highlighted Image at the top of this post makes up the lower third of the swatch; that is, it displays a portion of the southern flank and, at the top, part of the Tycho crater rim.
Images From Apollo Mission
Furthermore, by 1970, more than fifty craters were found on Earth. However, that work was still controversial until pictures of the Moon’s surface brought by the Apollo Moon missions verified that impact cratering is a standard geological process outside our Earth.
In our exploration of Tycho Crater, it’s worth noting that our understanding of the Moon’s surface has been greatly enhanced by the efforts of various space missions. One of the most significant of these was the Apollo Program.
If you’re interested in learning more about this monumental chapter in space exploration, we invite you to read our Basic Guide to the Apollo Program. This comprehensive guide will provide you with a deeper understanding of the missions that have helped us uncover the secrets of the Moon’s surface, including the remarkable Tycho Crater.
Moon crater Tycho stands out because it’s still entirely new, with an assessed age of 108 million years. This is far younger than the 3.9 billion years for managing Moon craters. And we know its date of birth because the Apollo 17 astronauts seized a sample from one of the rays and delivered it back to Earth for study in 1972.
An 8–10 kilometer-wide asteroid dug Moon crater Tycho during Earth’s Cretaceous Period when dinosaurs yet clomped through fields and woodlands. The 86-kilometer-diameter Moon crater Tycho sits at the epicenter of a web of dazzling and abundant rays produced by massive rocks hurled outward from the impact.
Tycho Crater Elevation Plot
Tycho Crater does not disappoint! This elevation plot displays Tycho’s floor, two internal terraces, its increasingly sagging but still steep inner wall, its still-sharp rim, and its sloping flank. Thstoryot shows elevation along a line running through the center of the red parallelogram in the non-anaglyph image above. The picture below shows from left (north) to right (south).
Why Moon Crater Tychos Rays Are Bright
They arced above the airless Moon landscape before smashing down and boring out innumerable secondary lunar craters. Those impacts threw added soil and rocks downrange, expanding and extending the rays.
Newly excavated Moon material is bright, but it weathers dark over time. Moon crater Tycho’s rays are bright because insufficient time has passed for solar storms, cosmic rays, and micrometeorites to darken and sandpaper them into powder.
And, if you could walk along a ray today, you’d observe loads of light-toned crushed rock shifting with lunar craters dug by catapulted ejecta.
Moon crater Tycho reveals much in a small telescope. Besides its crisply-edged rim, another sign of the crater’s youth is the center peak is immediately apparent.
The central peak reaches 2 kilometers above the lunar crater floor and looks like a bright point at a full Moon. Then a considerably little secondary peak pokes out directly next to it to the northeast.
Lunar Crater Tycho Has Step-Like Terraced Banks
With a magnification of 214× on a 10-inch telescope, it appears as a tiny mound. Both are made from rock that bounced upward after the crust eased in the aftermath of the lunar impact.
And, like many more massive Moon craters, Tycho has step-like terraced banks that formed as the sides of the lunar crater progressively gave way and collapsed downward under the force of the Moon’s gravity.
Both the peaks and terraces are seen adequately within a couple of days of sunset and sunrise at the lunar crater, i.e., when it’s near or on the Moon’s terminator. Try on the evening of March 24–25 (sunrise) or the morning of March 9–10 (sunset). Slanted sunlight at these times forms the shadows that highlight exceptional features otherwise missed under the high Sun of the full Moon.
And if you’re fortunate, you might catch the sight of the peak blocking the last or first rays of sunlight with the lunar crater bowl steeped in total black shadow below, a most arresting Moon scene. And, on exceptional occasions, you will see the darkness filling the bowl changed to a deep gray by sunlight bouncing off the crater’s rim.
Moon Crater Tycho’s Floor is 4.8 km Deep.
The view through a scope only indicates what’s there. Moon crater Tycho’s floor is 4.8 km deep and looks almost smooth east of the center peak and more irregular west of it. And it’s made of a melted rock called impact melt, produced by the enormous heat generated during the impact.
To fully appreciate the floor’s great humpback mounds of melted Moonrock, wormy holes, and zigzagging cracks. Please visit the LROC-Quickmap site, an interactive, zoomable tool that gets you so near to the Moon you can practically smell it. High-resolution photographs from LRO were joined together to produce the map. Focus the view on Moon crater Tycho, zoom in with your mouse, and examine.
You can almost lose your way here. Vitreous impact melt reaches beyond the lunar crater wall to create the unusual dark collar around Tycho, best noticeable at full Moon.
The collar sets the lunar crater off from a more extensive nimbus of exceptionally bright rays that overlay and weaves in complex ways.
So take your time. And a neutral density filter will help to tone down the light and make it much easier on your eye.
Mapping Moon Crater Tycho
Geological maps are presented as a tool for understanding and describing the formation and alteration of rocks that are exposed at the surface of the Earth, asteroids, other terrestrial planets, and moons.
Creating geological maps on the Earth typically includes going into the field to observe and measure the rocks of interest.
For situations where the field area is challenging to access, remote sensing data is the foundation for making the maps.
In the matter of the Moon or other planetary surfaces, geologists usually do not have rock samples that can be directly tied to distinct geologic units, so they draw boundaries between various units utilizing the morphology or appearance of multiple materials.
The result is a geomorphological map from which scientists produce geologic interpretations.
Lunar Crater Tycho is One of The Most Visible Craters on The Moon
Due to its extensive, bright ray system, the moon crater Tycho is one of the most visible craters on the Moon.
The latter used Lunar Orbiter V images, with a resolution of about 100 m, to define 14 different units in and around Moon crater Tycho. Furthermore, based on the same images, a detailed map of the distribution of impact melt around the Lunar crater Tycho was published by Morris et al. .
The geomorphological map above displays the crater’s interior in more detail than ever. And a higher resolution map of the impact melt deposits below in and around the lunar crater was also made.
The highest abundance of melt pools now solidified rock is on the northeastern part of the Moon crater Tycho ejecta blanket, whereas the lowest quantity is to the southwest.
The picture above shows Melt pool black distribution at Moon crater Tycho superposed on LROC WAC global mosaic and LRO LOLA topography data. And the white arrow indicates the implied direction of the Lunar crater Tycho impactor.
These maps form our understanding of how we can use lunar impact crater deposits to learn about the cratering process.
Moon Crater Tycho’s Rays Create A Web Of White Spokes Up To 2,000 km.
Observations using infrared technology during a lunar eclipse have revealed that Tycho, a prominent crater on the Moon, cools at a slower rate than its surrounding areas.
This anomaly results in Tycho becoming a “hot spot” on the lunar surface. This interesting effect is attributed to the variance in the materials that make up this particular Moon crater.
Look closely at the craters within and just past the dark collar several days after or before the full Moon. Their walls and floors present narrow, straight gouges that trace the blast tracks of lunar impact debris over the region.
What a scene it must have been in the day. Moon erosion scratches away features relatively slowly, enabling us to enjoy the magnitude of the bombardment to this day.
Moon crater Tycho’s rays create a web of white spokes stretching up to 2,000 km across the Moon nearside, as far as Mare Serenitatis, where the astronauts from the Apollo 17 mission collected their essential sample.
One possible ray divides the mare and reaches even further, but it’s still unclear if it relates to Moon crater Tycho or the lunar crater Bessel, which it overlaps. And the rays aren’t uniformly distributed but form a butterfly pattern, with most extending to the lunar south, east, and northwest.
Surprisingly few reached the west, indicating that the projectile approached at a shallow angle from the west to form the off-center ballistic pattern.
Lunar Crater Tycho’s Bright Ray
And a short, bright ray to the south-southwest of Moon crater Tycho doesn’t fit the pattern. So, instead of pointing back to the lunar crater, it’s nearly touching it.
I have tried hard to imagine what might have occurred in the chaos of impact to produce a stream of boulders. And to turn askew and land in such a non-radial way,
I’m nevertheless at a loss. Was it redirected after clashing with another ejecta stream? Independent to Moon crater Tycho? Well, who knows.
Moon Crater Tycho in Books and Movies
Tycho was the scene of the Tycho Magnetic Anomaly (TMA-1) following the excavation of an alien monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the seminal science-fiction film by Stanley Kubrick and book by Arthur C. Clarke.
In the movie Can’t Buy Me, Love, Cindy sees Tycho while looking through a telescope on her last “contractual” date with Ronny in the Airplane Graveyard.
Moon crater Tycho also serves as the place of “Tycho City” in Star Trek: First Contact, a Moon metropolis by the 24th century.
And in Jack Williamson’s famous novel Terraforming Earth, the Tycho crater is used for “Tycho Base,” It is a robot-controlled and self-sustaining installation aimed at restoring life to the dead planet Earth following an asteroid sterilizing the biosphere.
Clifford Simak established a novelette, The Trouble with Tycho, at the Moon crater. Simak also proposed that the crater’s rays were made of volcanic glass (tektites), akin to a theory suggested by NASA researchers John O’Keefe and Dean Chapman in the 1970s.
Then in a series of novels, Roger Macbride Allen’s Hunted Earth, the Naked Purples own a then penal colony in or around Tycho crater known as “Tycho Purple Penal.”
Lastly, in The Expanse (TV series) and The Expanse (novel series), “Tycho” is the name of an organization known for its large-scale construction projects throughout the solar system. The corporation has its space station named “Tycho Station.”
Frequently Asked Questions.
How old is the Tycho crater?
Tycho is comparatively a young crater, with an estimated age of 108 million years, based on examining samples of the crater ray collected during the Apollo 17 mission.
How was the Tycho crater formed?
Like all the moon craters, lunar crater Tycho is thought to have formed when a space rock 8-10 kilometers 108 million years ago slammed into the surface. Since the Moon lacks Earth’s protective atmosphere, which vaporizeminorll asteroids on collision courses, even tiny rocks can make a massive dent in the lunar surface.
Why does the crater Tycho show rays?
Tycho, one of the most noticeable craters on the Moon, appears as a radiant point in the southern highlands, with its streaks of brilliant matter extending across a significant portion of the near side. The Tycho crater was formed relatively recently, which is why its dazzling ejecta (material dispersed during the impact event) are still visible as bright streaks.
What type of crater is Tycho?
To the south of the lunar crater Tycho is Street; to the east lies the Pictet crater, and to the north-northeast, you’ll find Sasserides. Tycho is surrounded by a lunar surface teeming with craters of various sizes, many of which overlap older ones. Some of these smaller craters are secondary impacts formed from larger pieces of ejecta flung from Tycho. With a diameter of 53 miles (85 km) and a depth of 4,800 meters (15,700 feet), Tycho is one of the Moon’s brightest and most prominent craters.
What is the most visible crater on the Moon?
The Tycho Crater on the Moon (Labeled) Tycho Crater is one of the most notable craters on the lunar surface. Moon crater Tycho’s prominence is not due to its size. And it appears as a bright spot in the southern highlands, with rays of shiny rock scattering over much of the nearside.
How deep is the Tycho crater?
The Tycho crater is remarkably deep, reaching an impressive depth of 4,800 meters, which is equivalent to roughly 15,700 feet. This depth is comparable to the height of some of the world’s highest mountains.
To put it into perspective, Mount Everest, the highest peak on Earth, stands at 8,848 meters or approximately 29,029 feet. Thus, the Tycho crater is about half as deep as Everest is tall.
The depth of Tycho is particularly fascinating because it provides valuable insight into the Moon’s geological history. It’s an example of a well-preserved complex crater, a type of impact crater with a central peak and terraced walls. These characteristics, coupled with its distinctive bright rays of ejecta, make Tycho one of the most studied craters on the Moon.
Moreover, the depth of the Tycho crater plays a significant role in the studies of lunar regolith, the layer of loose, fragmented material covering solid bedrock. By studying craters like Tycho, scientists can gain a better understanding of the Moon’s past and the history of our solar system.
How long in miles are the longest rays at Tycho?
The Tycho crater interior has a high albedo noticeable when the Sun is overhead. Also, the lunar crater is surrounded by a unique ray system creating long spokes. They can reach as long as 1,500 kilometers. And sections of these rays can be observed even when the Tycho crater is illuminated only by earthlight.
Why is the crater Tycho always facing Earth?
The Tycho crater on the Moon always faces the Earth due to a phenomenon known as “tidal locking” or “gravitational locking.” This happens when the gravitational pull of a larger celestial body, in this case, Earth, causes an orbiting body, our Moon, to become synchronized. In other words, the Moon’s rotational period matches its orbital period. This means it takes the same amount of time for the Moon to complete one full orbit around the Earth as it does to rotate once on its own axis.
Tidal locking results from the gravitational interaction between the Earth and the Moon. Over billions of years, Earth’s gravitational forces have gradually slowed down the Moon’s rotation until it became locked in this synchronous rotation. As a result, we always see the same face of the Moon, which is known as the near side, where Tycho is located.
This process doesn’t just happen with the Earth and the Moon but is common in many planet-moon systems in our solar system and beyond. Tidal locking tells us a lot about the history and evolution of celestial bodies and is a fascinating area of study in the field of astronomy.
Did Apollo 11 land in a crater?
The historical Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed their Lunar Module (LM)named the “Eagle” approximately 550 meters west of the West crater on July 20, 1969. The lunar lander flew over the crater at an altitude of about 100 meters. During the descent, the West crater was a significant landmark.
The new book ‘How We Got to the Moon’ will reveal a stunning look at Apollo 11 Mission to the Moon.
Find out here if there is any volcanic activity on the Moon: Is There Volcanic Activity In The Moon’s Tycho Crater?