The crowned crater of Schrödinger

Seen here is the spectacular Schrödinger crater with its crown shaped mountain ring rising high above the lunar surface. <3

The 312 km wide Schrödinger crater, as captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA

Schrödinger crater is a 312 km wide impact crater near the Moon’s south pole on the farside, formed 3.8 to 3.9 billion years ago. The larger the crater, the more complex the nature of its mountains.

Aristarchus and Tycho craters have a single central peak while Copernicus has two peaks. As the crater size increases, the mechanics change such that a mountain ring forms instead of a peak i.e. the crowned Schrödinger crater.

The smooth plains in the central area surrounded by the mountain ring indicate recent (geologically!) volcanic activity in the crater. Several lava-carved rilles are also seen running across the crater surface.

Schrödinger is the best preserved impact basin of its kind. Sampling material from the volcanic outlets in the crater are key to determining its exact age, which is tied to several fundamental questions pertaining to the Moon viz. magma ocean hypothesis, lunar cataclysm hypothesis, crater formation mechanics and the Moon’s thermal evolution.

Schrödinger crater is also special due to its similarities to the Chicxulub crater on Earth. Chicxulub is the one that’s linked to the extinction of dinosaurs! Due to active geological processes on Earth, it has lost its original form and most of it is buried. Not so with Schrödinger on the airless Moon that allows us a good look at what Chicxulub might have been like after forming!

Schrödinger crater is a direct example of how studying the Moon helps us better understand Earth. Further, its deposits of iron and titanium are of economic interest in future lunar exploration. Several concept missions have been proposed to characterize and sample material in Schrödinger. Mysteries await to be unlocked.



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