Moon Crater Messier

Charles Messier's life work has been honored by the international astronomy community (represented by the IAU in this case) by naming a quite conspicuous Moon crater after the astronomer. This unique crater, situated in Mare Fecunditatis at 47.6 deg eastern selenographic [as it is called on the Moon, or Lunar] longitude and 1.9 deg southern selenographic latitude has a form deviating remarkably from the usual circular one, is the source of two bright and conspicuous rays, and has a close neighbor called Messier A (which was formerly named "Pickering," but now another crater bears that name).

Moon crater Messier is about 1,250 m deep and of an elongated form, measuring about 11 km in length and 8 km in width. Jean-Paul Philbert gives its selenographic longitude at 48deg East and its latitude at 2deg South.

Messier A lies about 20km west of Messier, at a longitude of 47.6deg E, latitude 1.9d S. It is a double crater, measuring 11x13 km. The smaller, older crater was superimposed by a newer, a bit larger crater.

The bright double ray, reaching out from these two craters to the West, 120 km throughout Mare Fecunditatis, gives the whole feature an appearance closely resembling a comet with a tail.

These craters and the rays were probably created by a very narrow-angle grazing impact (1-5 degrees); the main impact projectile created Messier, another piece Messier A, and ejecta the rays. The scenario could be reasonably reproduced in laboratory simulations: Impact velocity has been estimated at 1.7 km/s. Previously, numerous speculations have been involved in attempt to explain the particularities of these two interesting craters; see e.g. Charles Wood (2000).

Moreover, a number of smaller craters around these two have been labeled with Messier's name, in particular the following four:

To easier locate Moon Crater Messier, we offer a page Zooming Out from Messier to the Full Moon.

[LO-5 pic]

Lunar Orbiter V (5) image of Moon craters Messier and Messier A. The spacecraft was looking westward across Mare Fecunditatis (Sea of Fertility) and captured the two craters together with the peculiar "jet" of ejecta going out from them.

This image is also on display at the Linda Hall Library's

  • Lunar Map Online Exhibition.

    [Earth-based pic]

    Ground-based view of moon creater Messier: Craters Messier and Messier A in Mare Fecunditatis are prominent from Earth because of the near parallel rays originating from them. Amateur observers can easily find them with medium powers.

    This photograph was possibly obtained from Yerkes Observatory and is an enlargement from an unlabeled print of a first-quarter Moon photo. Taken from Charles A. Wood's Lunar Atlas, Mare Fecunditatis page.

    [Moon crater Messier, A. Cidadao]

    Amateur Antonio Cidadao obtained this fine photograph of the remarkable Moon Craters Messier and Messier A. The interesting rays system and the particular forms of the craters are evident.

  • See more of Antonio's Lunar images

    [Moon crater Messier, KPNO/NOAO]

    Moon craters Messier and Messier A, as seen on an Earth-bound image of the Full Moon, taken with the 0.9-meter telescope of Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona.
    Credit: T.A.Rector, I.P.Dell'Antonio/NOAO/AURA/NSF

  • Zoom out from Messier to Full Moon
  • More information on the NOAO Moon image (N.A. Sharp)

    [Lunar Orbiter Atlas photo]

    Lunar Orbiter Atlas Photo of crater Messier and environment in Mare Fecunditatis. The Atlas gives the position of Messier at Latitude 1.9 deg S, Longitude 47.6 deg E.

  • Hi-res version of this image
  • From: Moon Crater Messier, Lunar Orbiter Atlas of the Moon, LPI

    [Wide Angle from Orbit]
    Click on image for full-size version

    Orbital view of Moon crater Messier from Apollo astronauts, captured on a wide-angle photo: The craters Messier, Messier A, and Messier B are grouped in the center of this photograph, looking westward across Mare Fecundiatis. Messier appears nearest the center of the photograph, Messier A is above Messier, and Messier B is below and to the right of Messier.

    From Nasa/JSC's Apollo 11 Mission Photography page, Orbital Photography section.

    [Telephoto from Orbit]
    Click on image for full-size version

    Orbital view of Moon crater Messier from Apollo astronauts, closeup with a telephoto lens: The atypical shape of craters Messier and Messier A has caused considerable controversy concerning the mode of origin.

    From Nasa/JSC's Apollo 11 Mission Photography page, Orbital Photography section.

    [Messier and Messier A, Apollo 15]

    Orbital view of the unusual Moon craters Messier (labelled 1) and Messier A (2) from Apollo 15. From images like this, lunar scientists have concluded that these lunar craters were produced by high velocity projectiles following shallow trajectories, and he projectiles that formed Messier and Messier A apparently traveled from east (upper right) to west (lower left).

    From APOLLO OVER THE MOON: A View From Orbit (NASA SP-362) - note our extract.

    [Messier A datail, Apollo 16]

    Stereogram of unique Messier A Moon crater (Apollo 16).

    From APOLLO OVER THE MOON: A View From Orbit (NASA SP-362) - note our extract.

    [Apollo 16 LM over Messier crater]
    Click on image for full-size version

    Lunar Module Ascent stage of Apollo 16 over Moon crater Messier, photographed from the Command module as it approaches the Apollo CSM when returning from Lunar surface.

    NASA Photo ID: AS16-122-19533, Film Type: 70mm cn, Date Taken: April 23, 1972.

    Nasa description: The ascent stage of the Apollo 16 Lunar Module (LM) approaches the Command/Service modules (CSM) during rendezvous, with a contrasting background of darkness and the moon's Sea of Fertility (Mare Fecundatatis). Taken from the CSM, the photo show the aft side of the LM during a yaw maneuver. Note the buckled thermal panels. Messier and Messier A (right center) are among the most readily identifiable features on the surface below.

    From Nasa/JSC's Apollo 16 Press Release Images collection.



    Please contact us if you can provide further images of Messier (and/or Messier A) moon craters, both Earth and space made.

    Hartmut Frommert
    Christine Kronberg

    [SEDS] [MAA] [Home] [Indexes]

    Last Modification: June 17, 2006