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lunar notebook By Charles A.


Between Freezing and Serenity


lthough it lacks rays (and

thus is considered Eratosthenian
in age, 1.1 to 3.2 billion years
old), the crater Aristoteles is the largest,
best-placed young crater in the Mare
Frigoris region. With a diameter of 87
kilometers, Aristoteles is a Tycho-type
crater, but its interior looks more like a
Triesnecker-style crater instead of a
strong central peak it has only a scattering of small hills. The rim of Aristoteles
seems to be a combination of slumps
and terraces, as if the crater were a transition between the Triesnecker and Tycho
types. Interestingly, the nearby crater Eudoxus is also large enough (67 km in diameter) to be considered a standard
Tycho-type crater, but it too has unusual
peak and rim structures similar to its
larger neighbor.
Aristoteles also has two other noteworthy features. First, it has a beautiful
array of radial ridges and secondary
craters spread across Mare Frigoris. Sec-

ond, the crater provides an infrequent

example of a large crater being superposed on a smaller one in this case
the 30-km-wide crater Mitchell. Also, the
nearby inner wall of Aristoteles has an
unusual ridge that may be a rim collapse
due to the existence of Mitchell.
East of Eudoxus is one of the Moons
largest and least-known craters: Lacus
Mortis. Like Sinus Iridum, Lacus Mortis
(Lake of Death) is usually not considered
a crater because its Latin name implies an
expanse of mare material. It is that, but
the mare patch is contained in a 156-km
wide, hexagonal-shaped crater. The western rim of Lacus Mortis is very straight,
but the eastern rim seems to be squashed
in and is partially missing. Off center is
the conspicuous, 40-km-wide crater Brg,
which has a dark floor, a large central
peak, and a massive slump that extends
from its western wall to its floor.
From the point of view of geology,
and amateur telescope sleuthing, the

August 2000 Sky & Telescope

2000 Sky Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

Charles Wood is an amateur Moon watcher

and a researcher specializing in planetary science at the University of North Dakota. He
maintains a Web site for Moon explorers at

Where to Find It


observers log
Smack in the middle of Lacus Mortis is the prominent 40-kilometer-wide crater Brg. Note
the system of rilles to the craters west at least one of these should be visible in amateur
telescopes. Lunar Orbiter frame #91H2, courtesy Brown University/NASA Northeast Regional
Planetary Data Center.

most interesting features are the faults

and rilles west of Brg that cut the floor
of Lacus Mortis. Under low Sun, two
ridges can be seen running from Brg to
the northern and southern rims of Lacus
Mortis. The most intriguing landform,
however, is a fault scarp that extends
across the southern portion of the Lacus.
Look closely and you can see that the
eastern side is the high side of the fault
but that it turns into a narrow rille! The
fault indicates a vertical force, but the
rille could form only if there was horizontal extension. This is a very strange
transformation that has not been described, much less explained. Also on the
floor of Lacus Mortis are four or more
other rilles, only one of which is easy to
see, striking diagonally into the Lacus
from the southwest corner of the large
crater. All the classic Moon mappers disagree on the number and location of the
other rilles. What do you see?
One other nearby feature needs pointing out. On the southeast rim of Lacus
Mortis are two middle-aged craters, Plana
and Mason. A tremendous triangular
mountainous mass of material is centered
at the intersection of their two rims with
that of Lacus Mortis. The mass seems to
have spread downward onto the floors of
the three craters. What in the world (or
the Moon) is the origin of this mass? Is it
a volcanic extrusive a fancy phrase for
an erupted lava pile or maybe an ancient block from some basin rim? This
may be another riddle that will not be
solved until people live on the Moon.