Image: Messy peaks of Zucchius

July 21, 2014
Credit: ESA/SMART-1/AMIE camera team/ Space Exploration Institute

Even to the naked eye, our Moon looks heavily cratered. The snippet of carved and pitted lunar surface shown in this image lies within a 66 km-wide crater known as Zucchius. From our perspective, Zucchius is located on the edge of the southwest limb of the Moon.

The crater's uneven and messy appearance is a result of how it formed. Lunar craters like Zucchius were created when rocky bodies, such as, meteors and asteroids, collided with the Moon at speeds of tens of kilometres per second, smashing holes into its surface. More forceful impacts caused material to spring back upwards, a bit like a water droplet hitting a body of water. This process formed a peak in the centre of the , as shown here by the cluster of bobbly mounds.

Zucchius's central peak and other features are quite well preserved. They are thought to have formed in the last 1.2 billion years, a time dubbed the 'Copernican period'. This is very recent compared to the Moon's age of 4.4 billion years.

Earth was also cratered in this way—were it not for our planet's different conditions it would look a lot like the Moon. Plate tectonics, the atmosphere and the presence of liquid water have all contributed to changing the shape and appearance of Earth's surface over time, eroding, covering and smoothing away surface blemishes.

This image was taken with the Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment on board ESA's SMART-1 on 14 January 2006, as the spacecraft skimmed just 753 km above the Moon's surface. Zucchius was named after the 17th-century Italian astronomer Niccolò Zucchi, who was involved in some of the first designs for the reflecting telescope, and who made early observations of Jupiter's belts and spots on Mars.

Explore further: Asteroid strikes cause the Moon's surface to smooth

Related Stories

Asteroid strikes cause the Moon's surface to smooth

July 18, 2012

The lunar surface is marred by impact craters, remnants of the collisions that have occurred over the past 4.5 billion years. The Orientale basin, the Moon's most recently formed sizeable crater, stands out from the rest. ...

Fantastic Phobos

August 21, 2012

( -- Some 135 years after its discovery, Mars’ largest moon Phobos is seen in fantastic detail – and in 3D – in an image taken by ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft as it passed just 100 km by.

A wet Moon

March 26, 2014

The Moon's status as a "dry" rock in space has long been questioned. Competing theories abound as to the source of the H20 in the lunar soil, including delivery of water to the Moon by comets.

Image: A peppering of craters at the Moon's south pole

May 26, 2014

( —The dark and shadowed regions of the Moon fascinate astronomers and Pink Floyd fans alike. Our Moon's rotation axis has a tilt of 1.5º, meaning that some parts of its polar regions never see sunlight – the ...

Recommended for you

What are white holes?

October 9, 2015

Black holes are created when stars die catastrophically in a supernova. So what in the universe is a white hole?

A mission to a metal world—The Psyche mission

October 9, 2015

In their drive to set exploration goals for the future, NASA's Discovery Program put out the call for proposals for their thirteenth Discovery mission in February 2014. After reviewing the 27 initial proposals, a panel of ...

Image: Pluto's blue sky

October 9, 2015

Pluto's haze layer shows its blue color in this picture taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn's moon ...

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) Jul 21, 2014
Writing for the 5th grade?
not rated yet Jul 21, 2014
@Shootist I was thinking the same thing. What is this?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.