A crash that took place March 17, 2013 between a large space rock and the moon left an enormous crater in its wake and caused a huge explosion that sent out a record breaking flash of light. Now, using the lunar probe known as the LROC (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera), space researchers in Huntsville, Alabama were able to identify the massive lunar crater.
The LROC has been working around the clock since 2009 in order to capture all of the moon’s various indentations and craters that continue to occur as time passes. Originally, however, it was more manually based and was used to simply scout the surface. Starting in 2010, space researchers made the decision to switch the LROC over to a more automated system so that they could keep track of changes in the moon’s surface with greater ease.
By using a new algorithm that works with the LROC, scientists can now search for craters automatically, as the LROC will take pictures at a consistent rate around the moon’s surface. Over time, these pictures can be compared to one another to pinpoint any changes.
Using this strategy, the scientists working with the LROC at the time of the explosion were able to come up with a model of what the crater could potentially look like. The actual discovery of this crater has allowed them to see how accurate their model actually was and to adjust its calibration so that future models would be more accurate.
Currently, there is a vast record of all of the craters that have appeared on the moon’s surface. Space scientists have come to classify them based on their size and shape. There are, for example, ALC craters, BIO craters, SOS craters, TRI craters and TYC craters. Each of these has their own unique characteristics.
The lunar crater that occurred in 2013 falls under the ALC category, as the actual resulting crater was not that large. The characteristics of an ALC crater are as follows: they have a center diameter of less than 10 km, are small and cup shaped in the center. This is part of the reason why it took scientists a few months to actually locate the crater.
The LROC works with a WAC (Wide Angle Camera). This allows it to capture very wide areas in its images in great detail. Because of these fantastic new images of the moon in recent years, scientists have been able to create an almost all-encompassing topographical map of the moon. This gives them a huge advantage when looking for any new craters or changes in the moon’s surface that they want to record.