Astrogeology Science Center

The Autobiography of Oppenheimer Crater

25 August 2017

Oppenheimer crater, at 35.2°S, 166.3°W on the far side of the Moon, shows features such as cracks and low, dark-haloed volcanoes that suggest it must have lived an interesting young life to a ripe-old crater age. During its youth, I imagine it would rumble, swell, crack, hiss, blow smoke, and eject dangerous material into the atmosphere as fervently as any rebellious teen-ager. Now, at the ancient age of ~4.0 billion years, only geologic clues are left about its violent past. These clues have helped Scientist Lisa Gaddis and others unveil some interesting details about this crater’s past you won’t want to miss out on, in the following excerpt and abstract.

Image Credit: NASA

Excerpt: “Recent remote sensing studies have identified complex volcanism in the floor-fractured crater (FFC) Oppenheimer U, located in the northwest floor of Oppenheimer crater (35.2°S, 166.3°W, 208 km dia., Figure 1) within the “South Pole - Aitken basin” (SPA) region of the lunar far side [1, 2, 3]. Up to 15 sites of pyroclastic volcanism have been identified in the floor of Oppenheimer crater [4]. Studies of Moon Mineralogy Mapper data (M3, 0.4-3 μm, 86 bands, [5]) indicated that the pyroclastic deposits are comprised of mixtures of clinopyroxene and iron-rich glass [2], with the Oppenheimer U deposit showing variable composition within the FFC and having the most iron-rich volcanic glass thus far identified on the Moon. Here we examine the floor of Oppenheimer U in more detail and show evidence for possible multiple eruptive vents.” Find out more!