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 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 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.
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.
No country or organization has yet claimed responsibility or ownership of the rocket.
Picture credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University