Tracking Crater Lichtenberg
Most of the time, the SMART-1 spacecraft pointing direction is exactly downwards to the Moon, the so-called 'nadir-pointing'. This animation illustrates a special pointing mode, the so-called 'target-tracking' mode of SMART-1. As the spacecraft moves around the Moon, it is commanded such that even though it moves over the Lunar surface with several 100 metres per second, it keeps pointing to the same target for a certain period of time. In this particular case, the distance between the target and the spacecraft changes over ca. 6 minutes by 100 km.
The prominent crater in the lower right of the image is crater Lichtenberg, with a diameter of 20 km. The actual target of this observation was the 'ghost' crater on the lower left of Lichtenberg. It is almost hidden by overflown lava from Oceanus Procellarum in which it is located. This area is of high geological interest as it is thought to contain the youngest basalts on the Lunar surface, with an age of 'only' ca. 1000 million years. This has to be compared to the age of the Moon of about 4500 million years. The infrared spectrometer on board SMART-1, SIR, was measuring the composition of this area during these measurements.
Lichtenberg is named after the German physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742 - 1799), who was professor at the newly formed University Goettingen.
Detailed information for the images:
Time: 15 Jan 2006 13h43m17s to 13h49m07s
Distances: from 2064 km to 2162 km
Longitude: 66.8 °W
Latitude: 32.6 °N
Pixel scale:186 m/px - 195 m/px. Image credits: ESA/Space-X Contact: Bernard Foing, ESA, SMART-1 Project Scientist Jean-Luc Josset, Space-X