Lunar Orbiter 4 image
|Colongitude||9° at sunrise|
Plato is the lava-filled remains of a lunar impact crater on the Moon. It is located on the northeastern shore of the Mare Imbrium, at the western extremity of the Montes Alpes mountain range. In the mare to the south are several rises collectively named the Montes Teneriffe. To the north lies the wide stretch of the Mare Frigoris. East of the crater, among the Montes Alpes, are several rilles collectively named the Rimae Plato.
The exact elevation was first mapped on an LTO map. Its widest diameter is 109 km long and the depth is 1 km. According to the LRO, its diameter is 106.4 km from southwest to northeast, its depth is 1,468 meters, the highest elevation is 1,092 meters below mean level (the full sphere) and the lowest is 2,560 meters. The area is less than 1,100 km² and the perimeter is over 100 km.
The age of Plato is about 3.84 billion years, only slightly younger than the Mare Imbrium to the south. The rim is irregular with 2-km-tall jagged peaks that project prominent shadows across the crater floor when the Sun is at a low angle. Sections of the inner wall display signs of past slumping, most notably a large triangular slide along the western side. The rim of Plato is circular, but from the Earth it appears oval due to foreshortening.
The flat floor of Plato has a relatively low albedo, making it appear dark in comparison to the surrounding rugged terrain. The floor is free of significant impact craters and lacks a central peak. However, there are a few small craterlets scattered across the floor.
Transient lunar phenomena
Plato has developed a reputation for transient lunar phenomena, including flashes of light, unusual colour patterns, and areas of hazy visibility. These anomalies are likely a result of seeing conditions, combined with the effects of different illumination angles of the Sun.
The crater is named after the ancient Greek writer Plato and like many of the craters on the Moon's near side, it was named by Giovanni Riccioli, whose 1651 nomenclature system has become standardized. Other early lunar cartographers had given the feature different names: Michael van Langren's 1645 map calls it "Lacus Panciroli", south of it, Langren called a feature thought to be a mid-sized crater named Archimedis after Archimedes, that crater name would be named to a larger crater further south by Riccioli. The 17th-century astronomer Hevelius called this feature the 'Lesser Black Lake' (Lacus Niger Minor), the feature was displayed with the surrounding mountains.
Location of Plato from Clementine images
Plato as taken from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter data, inset graph shows elevations of green line, left to right.
By convention these features are identified on lunar maps by placing the letter on the side of the crater midpoint that is closest to Plato.
|B||53.0° N||17.2° W||13 km|
|C||53.2° N||19.4° W||10 km|
|D||49.6° N||14.5° W||10 km|
|E||49.7° N||16.2° W||7 km|
|F||51.7° N||17.4° W||7 km|
|G||52.1° N||6.3° W||8 km|
|H||55.1° N||2.0° W||11 km|
|J||49.0° N||4.6° W||8 km|
|K||46.8° N||3.3° W||6 km|
|KA||46.8° N||3.6° W||6 km|
|L||51.6° N||4.3° W||10 km|
|M||53.1° N||15.4° W||8 km|
|O||52.3° N||15.4° W||9 km|
|P||51.5° N||15.2° W||8 km|
|Q||54.5° N||4.8° W||8 km|
|R||53.8° N||18.3° W||6 km|
|S||53.8° N||14.9° W||6 km|
|T||54.5° N||11.2° W||8 km|
|U||49.6° N||7.4° W||6 km|
|V||55.8° N||7.4° W||6 km|
|W||57.2° N||17.8° W||4 km|
|X||50.1° N||13.8° W||5 km|
|Y||53.1° N||16.3° W||10 km|
The following craters have been renamed by the IAU:
- Plato A — See Bliss (crater).
Plato in fiction
The crater Plato is the location of an observatory in Arthur C. Clarke's novel Earthlight (1955), of the lunar "warren" Hong Kong Luna in Robert A. Heinlein's novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966), and of Moonbase Alpha in the science-fiction TV series Space: 1999.
- "A cross section line trace of the lunar crater Plato, with an elevation graph of the line inset, from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter data". October 2, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
- Ewen A. Whitaker, Mapping and Naming the Moon (Cambridge University Press, 1999)
- Riccioli map of the Moon (1651)
- Langrenus map of the Moon (1645)
- Hevelius map of the Moon (1647)
- Andersson, L. E.; Whitaker, E. A. (1982). NASA Catalogue of Lunar Nomenclature. NASA RP-1097.
- Blue, Jennifer (July 25, 2007). "Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature". USGS. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- Bussey, B.; Spudis, P. (2004). The Clementine Atlas of the Moon. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-81528-4.
- Cocks, Elijah E.; Cocks, Josiah C. (1995). Who's Who on the Moon: A Biographical Dictionary of Lunar Nomenclature. Tudor Publishers. ISBN 978-0-936389-27-1.
- McDowell, Jonathan (July 15, 2007). "Lunar Nomenclature". Jonathan's Space Report. Retrieved 2007-10-24.
- Menzel, D. H.; Minnaert, M.; Levin, B.; Dollfus, A.; Bell, B. (1971). "Report on Lunar Nomenclature by the Working Group of Commission 17 of the IAU". Space Science Reviews. 12 (2): 136–186. Bibcode:1971SSRv...12..136M. doi:10.1007/BF00171763.
- Moore, Patrick (2001). On the Moon. Sterling Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0-304-35469-6.
- Price, Fred W. (1988). The Moon Observer's Handbook. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-33500-3.
- Rükl, Antonín (1990). Atlas of the Moon. Kalmbach Books. ISBN 978-0-913135-17-4.
- Webb, Rev. T. W. (1962). Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes (6th revised ed.). Dover. ISBN 978-0-486-20917-3.
- Whitaker, Ewen A. (1999). Mapping and Naming the Moon. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-62248-6.
- Wlasuk, Peter T. (2000). Observing the Moon. Springer. ISBN 978-1-85233-193-1.
- Lunar Orbiter Photo Number IV-127-H3
- Pictures of Plato on SkyTrip.de
- High resolution lunar overflight video by Seán Doran, based on LRO data, that passes over Plato about two thirds of the way through (see album for more)
- NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day: Moon Mare and Montes (28 December 2000) - one of the prominent features of the photo includes Plato
- NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day: Plato and the Lunar Alps (11 February 2006)
- Wood, Chuck (March 15, 2004). "Peaks of Plato". Lunar Photo of the Day.
- NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day: Plato and the Lunar Alps (4 December 2014)