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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast ideas about how lunar craters form
  • Explain the process of impact crater formation
  • Discuss the use of crater counts to determine relative ages of lunar landforms

The Moon provides an important benchmark for understanding the history of our planetary system. Most solid worlds show the effects of impacts, often extending back to the era when a great deal of debris from our system’s formation process was still present. On Earth, this long history has been erased by our active geology. On the Moon, in contrast, most of the impact history is preserved. If we can understand what has happened on the Moon, we may be able to apply this knowledge to other worlds. The Moon is especially interesting because it is not just any moon, but our Moon—a nearby world that has shared the history of Earth for more than 4 billion years and preserved a record that, for Earth, has been destroyed by our active geology.

Volcanic versus impact origin of craters

Until the middle of the twentieth century, scientists did not generally recognize that lunar crater s were the result of impacts. Since impact craters are extremely rare on Earth, geologists did not expect them to be the major feature of lunar geology. They reasoned (perhaps unconsciously) that since the craters we have on Earth are volcanic, the lunar craters must have a similar origin.

One of the first geologists to propose that lunar craters were the result of impacts was Grove K. Gilbert , a scientist with the US Geological Survey in the 1890s. He pointed out that the large lunar craters—mountain-rimmed, circular features with floors generally below the level of the surrounding plains—are larger and have different shapes from known volcanic craters on Earth. Terrestrial volcanic craters are smaller and deeper and almost always occur at the tops of volcanic mountains ( [link] ). The only alternative to explain the Moon’s craters was an impact origin. His careful reasoning, although not accepted at the time, laid the foundations for the modern science of lunar geology.

Volcanic and impact craters.

Profiles of Volcanic and Impact Craters Illustrated. At left is a terrestrial volcano. It is tall, steeply sloped with a shallow crater at the top. At right is a Lunar impact crater. Not as tall as a terrestrial volcano, nor as steeply sloped. The crater has a very wide, flat floor and a central peak.
Profiles of a typical terrestrial volcanic crater and a typical lunar impact crater are quite different.

Gilbert concluded that the lunar craters were produced by impacts, but he didn’t understand why all of them were circular and not oval. The reason lies in the escape velocity, the minimum speed that a body must reach to permanently break away from the gravity of another body; it is also the minimum speed that a projectile approaching Earth or the Moon will hit with. Attracted by the gravity of the larger body, the incoming chunk strikes with at least escape velocity, which is 11 kilometers per second for Earth and 2.4 kilometers per second (5400 miles per hour) for the Moon. To this escape velocity is added whatever speed the projectile already had with respect to Earth or Moon, typically 10 kilometers per second or more.

At these speeds, the energy of impact produces a violent explosion that excavates a large volume of material in a symmetrical way. Photographs of bomb and shell craters on Earth confirm that explosion craters are always essentially circular. Only following World War I did scientists recognize the similarity between impact craters and explosion craters, but, sadly, Gilbert did not live to see his impact hypothesis widely accepted.

Questions & Answers

hi i need a telescope would you help mee
Nauman Reply
i can only advice you to go to some museum
Gospel
wher is it?
Nauman
but before that.......... i wanna know where are you from and from which state...and if you are nearer to that of the museum or will be able to go then.,.. i donot have any more words.
Gospel
What Do Plan To Observe?
Adam
sorry . i am from asia
Nauman
Check on amazon.Celeston telescopes are good for beginners.
priyanshu
can yoy introduce your self
Nauman
can you
Nauman
Asia...? from which country you belong into ...,,is it India or where?
Gospel
Do You Want A Telescope With ALot Of Maintenance Or Zero Maintenance?
Adam
pakistan
Nauman
with alot offf
Nauman
Any second hand online stores in your area? great for unused Christmas gifts etc..
Collins
So You Want A Newtonian Reflector?
Adam
So what i would put for that answer ?
Abdulla Reply
The largest observatory complex in the world is on Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain on Earth. Whatare some factors astronomers consider when selecting an observatory site? Don’t forget practical ones.Should astronomers, for example, consider building an observatory on Denali (Mount McKinley) or MountEverest?
Abdulla Reply
i need help on the the second part
Abdulla
Should astronomers for example considered building an observatory on Denali (Mount Mckinley) or MountEverest ?
Abdulla
I would take into consideration. climate weather pattern.
basim
also, could an establishment be built and be able to sustain years of being beaten by the weather?
basim
so far Mount Everest to my understanding is a difficult mountain
basim
how far us milky way galaxy?
ShowsSpy Reply
oh man
madison
We are part of the Milky Way Galaxy. We are within it, so it's not really away from us. Our galaxy is 100,000 light years in diameter. The nearest big galaxy is Andromeda, around 2 million lightyears away.
Jignesh
its 200,000 light years
Gospel
Where is Rice University located?
Amanda Reply
it is in your vagina
world
that couldn't be any more wrong 😂😂
jay
what even is this conversation😂😂!?
Herrera
Show Some Class.....
Adam
Houston, Texas.....
Adam
Houston
Preston
what is the first step to take as far as getting into the field of astronomy?
john Reply
how are universe made up of?
madhu Reply
saksi
madhu
lanika
madhu
I think that your question is- What is the universe made up of?
priyanshu
Ever heard of matter?
priyanshu
Well,the universe is made up of matter and possibly antimatter
priyanshu
Actually,it's made up of matter's smaller units,fundamental particles
priyanshu
But for normal purposes,say that it's made of matter
priyanshu
If you're asking how was the universe made,
priyanshu
there are several theories,but the widely accepted one is the 'Big Bang Theory'.
priyanshu
In simple words,a veeeeeeery long time ago (20 billion years).
priyanshu
The universe was just inside a very small point.
priyanshu
Then,it started to expand.
priyanshu
It is still expanding today
priyanshu
But remember,it's just a theory,there is no hard and fast proof
priyanshu
oh d*mn😭😭😭😭 i cant do my astronomy quest
swagirl
up Down quarks atoms electrons proton neutrons
Blake
😭😭😭😭..
swagirl
usually in astronomy quest there's many math formula. i'm difficult on them
swagirl Reply
practice!
Collins
?
swagirl
what was the question? if you need any help CrashCourse/astronomy and physics channel on YouTube are a good help.
Collins
yeah like... you know venn diagram?
swagirl
yeah it's for sets
Vinit
***youtu.be/uR70knMr2Hg
Collins
this might help you understand Venn diagram. and yes they're sets of numbers.
Collins
tx for u
swagirl
why the dark side of moon never face us? because moon dont rotate? why tho
Rishabh Reply
im in 8th standard and my school teach us nothing about astronomy but i want to be an astronomer so i study from youtube and apps like this but sometimes i get language problems
Rishabh
dark**
Glory
side**
Glory
The Moon does actually rotate. It takes 27 days for the Moon to make a full rotation. Because it takes it so long and the Earth is rotating around the sun, it seems like the Moon is pretty much standing still. That's called "synchronous rotation".
steveh259
I ment to say "The Earth is orbiting around the sun"
steveh259
Tidal Locked.....
Adam
***svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4442
Collins
thats cool
Gospel
ya gives you a look at how the moon orbits around us too and a perspective of how fast we are going. also gives the moon phases for the year! enjoy 😁
Collins
yes you are absolutely correct, it just like something like the milk of heaven
Subhasish
the far side of the moon is not the dark side of the moon.
Shawn
Tidal Locking?
priyanshu
what phases of the moon occurs when spring tide?
Florence Reply
the moon has a 28 day cycle. you can download a moon calander or follow the pattern and make your own calendar. 1st full moon of the year 21/22nd Jan, its also a blood moon and a wolf moon. if this info helps at all. 😊
Collins
***svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4442
Collins
How to determine the velocity of light?
PARTHIB Reply
using this formula c=1/√absolute permeability×absolute permittivity of free space i.e. c=1/√8.854×10^-12×4π×10^-7~3×10^8ms^-1
Vidyashankar
what is mean by Big Bang
block Reply
What it means by Big Bang is how the world was made and came in to exist
Glory
The Big Bang Is The Best Explanation For What We See Around Us, And For The Origin Of The Universe, All Our Evidence Points To The Big Bang Theory..... And Was Proposed By A Belgian Priest.....
Adam
if the big bang theory is really true than i would like to know what exploded and where did it came from and where did the energy came from and where come from for the matter to expand into amd where did the organization come from and where did the information come from.........
Gospel
Some say that on the otherside of the singularity was a black hole. They say that at the other end of all black holes is another universe. Hence the multiverse. It's all theoretical at this point but less than a 100 years ago people believed that there was only 1 galaxy in the universe. So why
Rafael
should there be only 1 universe?
Rafael
universe.
Rafael
Big Bang is a theory on the origin of the universe.It says that the whole universe started as an infinitely dense and hot point,which expanded with time to form the universe in which we live today.
priyanshu
but if you study about string theory then you will come to know that before big bang there were string ( vibrating particles) which cause to form the conditions for big bang.
YOG
Hmm,actually,I dont know much about string theory,just a little.I just wanted to tell this guy what is the Big Bang Theory.
priyanshu
and according to string theory black holes are giant fuzzball of strings,there is no infinity dense singularity and no smooth horizon there is just only a ball of string
YOG
is astronomy a hard subject to learn because i want to be an astronomer
FNAF Reply
No it not it just takes time and effort to learn
Glory
if your already interested/observing, your already an astronomer ! The more you look and read the more you'll learn.
Collins
I want to become a scientist but my knowledge is very low. How I can improve my knowledge?
Wwe
any form of science courses, there's free crash course channel on you tube. I've learned alot from this channel. covers most topics, science: biology chemistry physics, astronomy, ranges to anatomy, history and many many more. it's a never ending subject!
Collins
suggest a channel as a example
Wwe
CrashCourse is the name of the channel and there is a picture of an apple. look through their play lists. They will have other related channels they follow also.
Collins
thank you so much
Wwe
your very welcome
Collins
Why are they so far away that their light takes hundreds of millions of years to reach us on earth?
LadyCatTM Reply
Because the universe is wayyyyyy bigger than the earth
priyanshu
You can't expect everything to form close to Earth.
priyanshu
what is comets , astroids ,
Sumit Reply
comets are broken pieces of dust frozen debris Asteroids are big soiled pieces of Ice that burst into flames when it in to earth's atmosphere
Glory
Glory,you aren't correct
priyanshu

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Source:  OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax CNX. Apr 12, 2017 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11992/1.13
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