Saturday, November 29, 2014


Shady Business: Are there jagged mountain ranges on the moon?...or Spiky shadows

Early depictions of the moon took cues for telescopic observations, showing a rugged, 
forbidding landscape. As it turns out, this is an illusion.

This sketch of the Caucasus Mountains perfectly captures the dramatic, pointed shadows cast by peaks in the low sunlight.  Could the snowbank scenario be playing out on the Moon? McCabe

Sunlight grazing the top of a snowbank (right) throws the rounded knobs into stark relief on the street below. Every detail has been stretched and exaggerated by the sun’s low angle to create a shadowy "mountain range".

The very fact that the moon is airless allows every bit of meteoric dust to zap the surface at tens of thousands of miles per hour. Over the 4.5 billion year lifetime of the moon, myriad micrometeorite impacts have acted like cosmic sandpaper, grinding down the once craggy peaks into the smooth hills and mountaintops so vividly seen in photographs returned from the Apollo missions. 

Peaks of the Taurus-Littrow Mountains loom beyond the window of the Apollo 17 lunar module. From a closer perspective, we get a better idea of the relative smoothness of lunar mountains.  NASA 

Pointed shadows stretch across the floor of the 68-mile-wide crater Plato. The best place to see extreme shadows is right along the Moon's terminator, the ever-shifting boundary between lunar day and night. This is where the Sun is near rising (between New and Full phases) or setting (from Full to New). Damian Peach 

A few target areas where isolated peaks in mountain ranges, like the Alps and Caucasus, and along the rim of craters like Plato make for dramatic shadow-casting. Dates shown are approximate times when the terminator cuts through each region.
Virtual Moon Atlas - Patrick Chevalley, Christian Legrande 

Read the full article here

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