Tycho Crater Basic Guide

Tycho Crater: An In-Depth Analysis

The Tycho Crater is one of the most prominent and well-preserved impact craters on the lunar surface. Its striking appearance and unique features have made it a subject of intense scientific study, providing valuable insights into the formation and evolution of lunar craters. This article delves into the detailed analysis of the Tycho Crater, drawing from scientific research and data from lunar missions.

Tycho Crater Location on the Moon.

Formation and Age

The Tycho Crater is a relatively young crater, estimated to be around 108 million years old[3]. This age estimation is based on the analysis of samples collected during the Apollo 17 mission, which contained impact melt glass believed to have originated from the Tycho impact event[4].

The crater was formed by a massive asteroid or comet impact, with the impactor estimated to be around 8 to 10 kilometers in diameter[2]. The impact occurred at an oblique angle, as evidenced by the asymmetric distribution of the crater’s ejecta and ray system[2].

Geological Features

Tycho Crater picture taken from LRO.

Crater Morphology

The Tycho Crater has a well-defined circular shape with a diameter of approximately 85 kilometers and a depth of 4.7 kilometers[4]. Its interior features include:

  • Terraced walls: The crater’s walls are slumped and terraced, sloping down towards the floor[4].
  • Central Peak Complex: A prominent central peak complex rises 1,600 meters above the crater floor, with a smaller peak located to the northeast[4].
  • Crater Floor: The floor is relatively flat but exhibits small knobby domes and a criss-crossing array of cracks and hills, likely formed by the solidification of impact melt[2][4].

Ray System

Tycho Crater ray system visible.

One of the most striking features of the Tycho Crater is its extensive ray system, which extends outward for over 1,500 kilometers[2][4]. These bright rays are composed of material ejected during the impact event and are particularly visible when the crater is illuminated by overhead sunlight.

The asymmetric distribution of the rays, with more prominent rays extending towards the east, south, and northwest, further supports the theory of an oblique impact[2].


Tycho crater showing landingsite for Surveyor 7.

The composition of the Tycho Crater and its ejecta has been studied through various lunar missions and remote sensing techniques. Key findings include:

  • Anorthosite: The Surveyor 7 mission, which landed near the crater in 1968, found that the crater’s ejecta had a composition different from the lunar maria, suggesting the presence of anorthosite, an aluminum-rich mineral[4].
  • Impact Melt: The crater floor is covered in impact melt, rocks that were heated to such high temperatures during the impact event that they turned into a liquid and flowed across the surface before solidifying[2][4].
  • Glassy Deposits: The dark annulus surrounding the crater is believed to be composed of a nearly continuous veneer of dark, glassy impact melt[2].

Impact on the Lunar Surface

The formation of the Tycho Crater had a significant impact on the lunar surface, both locally and globally:

  • Ejecta Blanket: The crater is surrounded by an extensive ejecta blanket, extending hundreds of kilometers from the rim, which has reshaped the local topography[2][4].
  • Seismic Effects: The impact event likely generated seismic waves that propagated through the lunar interior, potentially influencing the formation of other surface features[2].
  • Lunar Samples: Material ejected from the Tycho impact is believed to have been scattered across the lunar surface, including the Apollo 17 landing site, providing valuable samples for studying the crater’s formation and composition[3][4].

The Tycho Crater continues to be a subject of ongoing research, offering insights into the processes that shape planetary surfaces and the history of the Solar System. Its well-preserved state and unique features make it an invaluable resource for understanding the dynamics of impact cratering and the geological evolution of the Moon.

[1] https://www.mooncratertycho.com
[2] https://skyandtelescope.org/observing/celestial-objects-to-watch/tycho-the-metropolitan-crater-of-the-moon/
[3] https://science.nasa.gov/resource/tycho-crater-on-the-moon-labeled/
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tycho_%28lunar_crater%29
[5] https://www.mooncratertycho.com/about-us/

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