Pytheas secondary craters and the moon crater CopernicusThe week of October 7-13 takes us from Day 9 to Day 14. This week we will highlight the Pytheas secondary craters and the crater Copernicus, viewable on Monday and Tuesday evenings.

Pytheas secondary craters: [NW/G7-8] The best place to see secondary craters that have landed within a splash ray is just 25 miles east of the crater Pytheas. There is an alignment of seven or more secondary craters that are obviously confined within a long ray extending from Copernicus, 160 miles to the south. Tonight it is difficult to observe the connection with Copernicus because the craters are visible on Mon. and Tues. nights, but the ray can be more clearly seen later at higher sun angles. So draw the alignment of craters tonight, then come back closer to full Moon and fill in the splash ray.

moon crater CopernicusCopernicus1: [NW/J7] Magnificent Copernicus has been justifiably dubbed “The Monarch of the Moon.” The crater was blasted out 800 million years ago in an explosion that was so powerful that some of the ejected debris almost certainly rained down on the Earth. It is 58 miles in diameter and has walls that rise to an impressive 12,400 ft. above the floor. As a result, sunrise over Copernicus at the beginning of Day 9 is a thing of beauty! This single crater is large enough to enclose the state of Rhode Island. In the center there is a complex of mountains that is worth studying. Some authorities say there are up to seven peaks. How many can you count?

See if you can spot the tiny crater Copernicus A (2.2 miles in diameter) on the east wall under the high rim peak. (It will be about 2 arc-seconds in diameter, so 100x or more should do the trick.)

There is a complex system of ridges radiating from Copernicus, and on the surrounding terrain between Copernicus and Eratosthenes you will find a host of secondary craters that resulted as huge boulders were blown out from the original impact and landed some distance away. These are some of the best secondaries on the Moon.

Immediately south of Copernicus is Fauth, a double crater that gives you the impression that you are peering at a keyhole.


1Copernicus, Nicolaus: (1473-1543) Renowned Polish astronomer who took the first major step to bringing astronomy out of the dark ages. The convoluted system of cycles and epicycles that Ptolemy introduced to explain the movement of the planets was woefully inadequate. Calculations of planetary positions were always off. Copernicus realized that if he simply placed the Sun at the center of the solar system, suddenly the math worked! Astronomers could predict the positions of the planets with greater accuracy (although because he still insisted that planets must move in “perfect circles,” calculations were still a little off. It was Kepler who put things straight some 60 years later with his discovery of elliptical orbits.)

Copernicus published his findings in his book, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres). The book was essentially finished by 1532, but because he feared ridicule from the academic world and reprisals from the Catholic Church, he did not allow it to be published until he was on his deathbed in 1543. He was presented with a copy of the book on the very day that he died.

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It is highly recommended that you get a copy of Sky and Telescope’s Field Map of the Moon, the very finest Moon map available for use at the telescope. It is available for $10.95 at www.skyandtelescope.com and on Amazon. All features mentioned in this blog will be keyed to the grid on the Field Map and will look like this: Plato: [NW/D9]

Credits:
Courtesy of Gray Photography of Corpus Christi, Texas
Lunar photos: NASA / USGS / BMDO / LROC / ASU / DLR / LOLA / Moon Globe. Used by permission

Andrew Planck

Andrew Planck

Author and Astronomer Andrew Planck shepherds you to the moon and its mysteries of intrigue and surprise. Learn about the moon’s most fascinating objects, understand how the moon was formed and the names of many of the craters … and why they honor individuals who have changed the course of history.
Andrew Planck
Pytheas Secondary Moon Craters and the Moon Crater Copernicus

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