Only one person has been lucky enough to play golf on the Moon – Alan Shepard got to hit the longest drive ever on a NASA mission in 1971.
The picture above is from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter picked up by stargazer Phil Plait. It shows a region of the Moon inside the crater Henry Frères. Taken on March 7, 2010, the image shows an area just 500 meters (550 yards) across — if it were Earth, you could easily walk across it in less than ten minutes — and shows objects down to less than a meter in size.
And now make a closer look at the dashed trail going from left to right. See how it ends at the little crater, and even — if you look closely — can be seen to turn downwards? It suspiciously points right to the 10-meter (30+ foot) boulder sitting just inside the crater wall.
Phil Plait wrote on his Bad Astronomy blog: “I see a gazillion pictures of astronomical objects but every now and again a picture comes along that’s so wonderful I just have to share it.” Imagining how it got there, he continues: ‘The boulder starts off at the left, and something – perhaps a minor moonquake, shakes the ground.
“In fact, what you’re seeing is the trail left by that boulder as it rolled and bounced downhill and stopped inside the crater! Look at the big picture. From the debris (small rocks) running up and down, you can tell that the terrain on the left side of the picture slopes down to the middle (in other words, if you started on the left side and walked to the center of the picture you’d be going downhill). The middle of the picture is relatively level ground.”
“In my mind’s eye, what happened here is clear. The boulder starts off at the left, and something — perhaps a minor moonquake, or a nearby impact — shakes the ground. The house-sized rock gets dislodged, and in the gentle gravity begins to roll downhill. It hits something and bounces, coming back down, skidding and rolling, only to be launched into the sky again and again.”
“It slows a bit each time — the ruts it digs get shorter as it moves left-to-right — and by the time it gets to the end of the track it’s barely moving, just enough to feel the change of slope due to the crater wall. It even rolled past the crater a bit (you can see the last groove is actually along the path a little beyond the crater), and almost slows to a stop…”
“But then slowly teeters backwards, back along the path it came. Just as it’s about to come to a rest, it goes over the lip of the crater, slides into it, and lumbers to a halt halfway down the 60-meter (200 foot) crater’s wall.” [via Metro (UK) and Bad Astronomy]