Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

It was only a "housekeeping" shot, one of a series of frames shot by Lunar Orbiter 2 to advance the film between photographs of possible Apollo lunar landing sites. But this distant oblique photograph of Copernicus crater was a media sensation and was called "the picture of the century."

Copernicus is 93 kilometers in diameter and estimated to be about 800 million years old. Like most recent lunar craters, it is surrounded by bright rays of debris blasted out by the impact. After the impact, the compressed floor of the crater rebounds, throwing up a central peak. Meanwhile the walls of the crater collapse, forming terraces. Copernicus has all the features of a typical large impact crater, although it has a cluster of small peaks instead of a large central peak. Possibly the floor of the crater is buried by impact melt produced during the impact.

Original Scene

(author's image)

Possible Coloring

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Created 24 September 2009, Last Update 15 January 2020