Plato (crater)

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Plato crater 4127 h3.jpg
Coordinates51°36′N 9°18′W / 51.6°N 9.3°W / 51.6; -9.3Coordinates: 51°36′N 9°18′W / 51.6°N 9.3°W / 51.6; -9.3
Diameter109 km
Depth1,468 m[1]
Colongitude9° 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.

Rimae Plato (Lunar Orbiter 4 image)


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.[1]

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[edit]

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.[2][3] Other early lunar cartographers had given the feature different names: Michael van Langren's 1645 map calls it "Lacus Panciroli",[2][4] 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.[2] The 17th-century astronomer Hevelius called this feature the 'Lesser Black Lake' (Lacus Niger Minor), the feature was displayed with the surrounding mountains.[2][5]


Satellite craters[edit]

Plato and its satellite craters

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.

Plato Latitude Longitude Diameter
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 in fiction[edit]

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.

Crater Plato is the home crater of Matthew Looney and Maria Looney, protagonists of the Looney series of children's books set on the Moon, written by Jerome Beatty.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "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.
  2. ^ a b c d Whitaker, Ewen A.; Mapping and Naming the Moon, Cambridge University Press, 1999
  3. ^ Riccioli map of the Moon (1651)
  4. ^ Langrenus map of the Moon (1645)
  5. ^ Hevelius map of the Moon (1647)


External links[edit]

Balcony Over Plato
Bench Crater in Plato
Scalelike Impact Melts

Related articles[edit]