Full resolution image (100 cm pixels) centered on the new double impact crater of the rocket body. NAC M1407760984R, image width 1100 meters. | Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photographed the site of a rocket impact that occurred last March. Not only did this create a strange double crater, but it’s also unclear where the rocket came from.

Astronomers discovered the rocket heading for the moon on a collision course last year, but impact did not occur until March 4. The impact site was photographed by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and, surprisingly, the crater is actually made up of two craters: an East crater (18 meters in diameter, about 19.5 meters) superimposed on a West crater (16 meters in diameter, about 17.5 meters).

NASA's Lunar Orbiter spots site of mysterious rocket impact
This animated GIF confirms the location of the newly formed rocket body’s double crater. The front image is LRO’s view from February 28, 2022 (M1400727806L). The image after is dated May 21, 2022 (M1407760984R). The width of the frame is 367 meters, or about 401 yards. | Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

NASA says the existence of the double crater is unexpected and may indicate that the rocket body had significant mass at each end.

“Typically, a spent rocket has mass concentrated at the end of the engine; the rest of the rocket stage consists mostly of an empty fuel tank. Since the origin of the rocket body remains uncertain, the dual nature of the crater may indicate its identity,” the space agency writes.

NASA's Lunar Orbiter spots site of mysterious rocket impact
A rocket body crashed into the Moon on March 4, 2022, near the Hertzsprung crater, creating a double crater about 28 meters wide in the longest dimension. LROC NAC M1407760984R; 3x magnified image | Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

NASA has not provided any guesses as to the extra mass that would have created the two craters. stopwatch reports that at least 47 NASA rocket bodies have created craters or spacecraft impacts on the Moon, with the four largest attributed to Apollo missions 13, 14, 15 and 17.

NASA's Lunar Orbiter spots site of mysterious rocket impact
These four images show craters formed by impacts from Apollo SIV-B stages: crater diameters range from 35 to 40 meters (38.2 to 43.7 yards) in the longest dimension. | Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

It should be noted that no other rocket body impacts on the moon, however, created double craters. NASA claims that the four Apollo SIV-B craters had a “somewhat irregular” outline and were significantly larger (more than 35 meters, or about 38 meters) than each of the twin craters.

According to the photos, the maximum width of the double crater is about 29 meters, or about 31.7 meters, and the mysterious rocket body was close to that of S-IVBs.

NASA's Lunar Orbiter spots site of mysterious rocket impact
The crater formed (5.226 degrees north, 234.486 degrees east, 1,863 meters a.s.l.) in a complex area where the impact of ejecta from the Orientale Basin event overlies the degraded northeast rim of the Hertzsprung Basin ( 536 kilometers in diameter). The new crater is not visible on this view, but its location is indicated by the white arrow. LROC WAC mosaic, width 110 kilometers. | Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

No country or organization has yet claimed responsibility or ownership of the rocket.


Picture credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

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