This towering silver wall is one small section of the moon’s enormous Aristarchus crater.
One of the brightest features on the moon’s surface, Aristarchus can easily be spotted with the naked eye, though even modest binoculars will greatly enhance the view.
Going one better, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped this spectacular image as it swooped down to just 16 miles above the lunar surface, or just twice as high as commercial airliners fly on Earth.
Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and 26 miles wide, Aristarchus was created when an asteroid hit the moon approximately 450 hundred million years ago. The impact excavated deep into the lunar crust and produced dark clumps and streamers of pyroclastic ash—glasses formed during fiery eruptions similar to those in the Hawaiian Islands. Ledges seen on the wall are topped with sagging blocks of pre-impact lunar crust.
The full panorama photo shows an area nearly two miles high and 15 miles wide. But features down to just 15 inches across can be resolved, so try zooming in on your favorite boulder.
Images: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
Adam is a Wired Science reporter and freelance journalist. He lives in Oakland, Ca near a lake and enjoys space, physics, and other sciency things. Follow @adamspacemann on Twitter.