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Lat: 17.83°N, Long: 23.53°E, Diam: 8.87 km, Depth: 0.31 km, Rükl: 24

external image normal_Brackett_AS17-M-0599_LTVT.JPG
AS17-M-0599 Brackett is the faint, round structure in the center, pocked, like the surrounding mare, by many small, unnamed craters. Although it looks a bit like a cookie, the shadows reveal Brackett has a raised rim giving it a pie-pan like shape with a flat bottom and tapered walls. Note the sharp change in the surface reflectance (albedo) of the surrounding mare from light to the north of Brackett to dark to its south. This is consistently observed over a wide range of sun angles. The rille is part of Rimae Plinius.


LPOD Photo Gallery Lunar Orbiter Images Apollo Images

  • Although the name Brackett is not included in the LPI's search-list of orbital Apollo photographs, Brackett was frequently photographed during the scientific missions of Apollo 15 and Apollo 17! - DannyCaes Jul 26, 2010
    • Apollo 15's orbital panoramic ITEK-camera photographs of Brackett
      • AS15-P-9572 and AS15-P-9577 show Brackett near the lower parts of the frames, very near the left margins (one doesn't have to scroll to the right).
      • AS15-P-9570 and AS15-P-9575 show Brackett near the upper parts of the frames, also very near the left margins (and again: one doesn't have to scroll to the right).
      • Research orbital Apollo 15 photography: Danny Caes
  • Brackett and its environs (Rimae Plinius, Dorsum Nicol, the northern part of crater Plinius, and Promontorium Archerusia) are depicted on the cover of the album Apollo: Atmospheres andSoundtracks by Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, and Roger Eno (1982). This orbital handheld Hasselblad photograph (AS17-150-23069) looks great on the L.P.-edition which appeared in the early eighties!
    • Detection of Brackett and its environs on the cover of Eno's Apollo-album: Danny Caes


(LAC zone 42C4) LAC map Geologic map LM map LTO map Lunar Topophotomap 42C4S1




Additional Information

  • IAU page: Brackett
  • Depth data from Kurt Fisher database
    • Westfall, 2000: 0.31 km
  • LTO-42C4 suggests that the height of the floor of Brackett is less than 100 m different from that of the surrounding mare. Although the rim looks mostly intact, it would appear that the crater may have been flooded by the same lavas. The shadows in (AS17-M-0599 to (AS17-M-0603 confirm the LTO estimates of a very small difference in elevation: whether measured from the inside or out, the rim of Brackett is rarely over 100 m tall (~150 m at the highest points). By comparison, the nearby rille is about 200 m deep. - JimMosher


  • Named for Frederick Sumner Brackett (1896-1988), an American physicist. Brackett's lifelong interest in spectroscopy began with astronomical studies, his interests soon shifted to biology, becoming Chief Biophysicist and Director of the Washington Biophysical Institute, later absorbed into the National Institutes of Health.
  • Although Brackett appears in the cumulative list of approved names published in IAU Transactions XVB (1973), like several others used as LTO chart titles it is not clear precisely when and where it was approved, nor is the honoree identified. However in Ashbrook, 1974, a popular article that apparently appeared before the official Transactions were released, Brackett is specifically identified as the "Frederick Brackett (1896-1972)," "who discovered the Brackett series of lines in the hydrogen spectrum." Although some sources give the date of death as 1972 (as in the Ashbrook article), January 28, 1988 is the date listed in the U.S. Social Security database and confirmed in the obituaries mentioned below, making the identification with F. S. Brackett in the IAU Planetary Gazetteer a rather unusual case of a lunar feature being named after a living honoree. Ashbrook does not explain where he got the biographical information from, but the implication is it was provided by the IAU. - JimMosher
    • No date of death was listed in early print editions of the IAU Gazetteer. In the current on-line IAU Planetary Gazetteer (where the date of death is given as 1988) the biographical reference for Brackett is the obituary by Berman (1988) in the National Institutes of Health newsletter The NIH Record cited in the Bibliography, below. Another obituary (discovered by historian Wolfgang Dick) appears in Volume 14 of the Optical Society of America's Optics News (1988).
    • Astronomical historian Robert Garfinkle points out an earlier article in The NIH Record (May 7, 1974 issue, page 3, brought to his attention by their Associate Historian & Curator, Sarah A. Leavitt) describing an April 4, 1974 party held at the NIH to celebrate Dr. Brackett having a lunar crater named after him. The article mentions that Brackett is being placed in the same class with Freud, Banting, and Huxley -- three other new names approved in IAU Transactions XVB (which may or may not have then been issued at the time of the party as its publication date is listed as "1974"). Dr. "Ted" Becker, a colleague of Dr. Brackett recalls the party was held soon after an amateur astronomer on the NIH staff noticed Brackett in a list of new crater names published in an astronomy newsletter (presumably the Ashbrook list). Knowing that honorees were supposed to be deceased, the NIH felt it prudent not to spoil the excuse for a party by inquiring too deeply into the details or by informing the IAU that F. S. was still very much alive.
      • external image FS_Brackett_Pointing_at_Moon_Photo_NIH.JPG A print of the original photo of Dr. Brackett pointing to his namesake crater that hangs proudly on the walls of the NIH's Chemical Physics Laboratory, courtesy Dr. Becker.
    • After describing Brackett's early photography of the infrared spectrum of the Sun, and his laboratory discovery of what is now called the Brackett Series of Hydrogen (an early example of a successful prediction from the Bohr theory), editor "Hans" Stetten gives the following humorous account of the naming of Brackett in his introduction (pages 443-444) to Chapter 22 (by Dr. Becker) in the book cited in the Bibliography (below):
      • Brackett's discoveries must have created a stir in the world of astronomy, but as far as I am aware these were his last ventures in that field. He carried out innovative laboratory research in spectroscopy and then turned his attention to matters of photobiology, such as the absorption of light by chloroplasts, the chlorophyll-containing particles in green plants.
      • Then, a few years ago, we succeeded in sending cameras to the moon and, for the first time, were able to map its entire surface. By tradition, craters on the moon are named after dead astronomers, but the craters proved to be very numerous while dead astronomers are relatively scarce. Finally someone recalled the name of Brackett, who had not published in astronomy for 50 years and was therefore presumed dead. A handsome crater was named for all time Brackett Crater. This is the only crater on the moon named for a nonastronomer or a living scientist. We at NIH take some satisfaction from this high honor.
    • Another possibility selected from an astronomical obituaries list is that the name Brackett published in IAU Transactions XVB was meant to honor Frank Parkhurst Brackett (1865-1951; the father of F. S.), but since lunar honorees are not necessarily astronomical, it could be almost anyone. - JimMosher
  • The name was used on LTO-42C4 (August 1974, for which it served as the chart title). It does not appear to have replaced any former IAU-approved designation. Indeed, this feature does not even seem to have been recognized as a crater in the System of Lunar Craters.
  • Not to be confused with Blackett.

LPOD Articles


  • Ashbrook, J. 1974. "New Names on the Moon." Sky and Telescope. Vol 47, No. 3 (March issue), pp. 170-171.
  • Gorman, Pat. 1974. "A Moon Crater Bears Honorable Name of Brackett - Dr. F. S. - Our Own Scientist" NIH Record. May 7 issue, page 3 (includes photo of Brackett pointing to his namesake crater). (PDF)
  • Berman, Marilyn. 1988. "Dr. Brackett, Prominent Physicist, Dies." NIH Record. March 8 issue, page 7. (PDF)
  • Stetten, DeWitt, Jr. and W. T. Carrigan. 1984. NIH: an account of research in its laboratories and clinics. Orlando: Academic Press.
    • The article "22. Spectroscopy and Chemical Physics" by Edwin D. Becker and Norman E. Sharpless on pages 445-455 (pointed out by historian Joseph November) includes several anecdotes about F. S. Brackett. The original dust jacket reportedly includes a cropped version of the photo of Brackett pointing to his namesake crater. - JimMosher
  • The orbital Hasselblad photograph on the cover of Brian Eno's Apollo-album:
    • Apollo over the Moon: a view from orbit, Chapter 4: The Maria (Part 1), Figure 59.
  • Brackett close-up:
    • AOTM, Chapter 7: Unusual Features (Part 2), Figure 241.

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