Chang’e 3 Lander Beams Back New Lunar Panorama Photos

by Bob King on January 18, 2014

The Yutu rover and lander solar panels are seen in this new image sent Jan. 17 from the moon. Credit: Chinanews.com

The Yutu rover and lander solar panels are seen in this new image sent Jan. 17 from the moon. For larger versions of any photos, just click. Credit: Chinanews.com

Little by little we’re getting sharper, clearer pictures from the Chinese Chang’e 3 moon mission. Yesterday the lander beamed back a series of new photos taken with its panoramic camera. Stitched together, they give us a more detailed and colorful look of the rover’s surroundings in northern Mare Imbrium. I’ve ordered the images starting with a nice crisp view of the Yutu rover; from there we turn by degree to the right across the five frames. The final mosaic unfortunately doesn’t have the resolution yet of the other images. Perhaps one will be published soon.

The lander's solar panels stand out in the foreground with a smattering of small craters nearby. Credit: Chinanews.com

The lander’s solar panels stand out in the foreground with a smattering of small craters nearby. Credit: Chinanews.com

Right of the rover we see more panels and a radio communications dish. Credit: Chinanews.com

Right of the rover we see more panels and a radio communications dish. Credit: Chinanews.com

A larger crater surrounded by what appears to be excavated impact ejecta is visible near the horizon at upper right. Credit: Chinanews.com

A larger crater surrounded by what appears to be excavated impact ejecta is visible near the horizon at upper right. Credit: Chinanews.com

Yutu's tracks stand out in this final image. Credit: Chinanews.com

Yutu’s tracks and another crater with ejecta stand out in this final image. Credit: Chinanews.com

 

Complete, if small, panorama stitched from the single images. Credit: Chinanews.com

Complete, if small, panorama stitched from the single images. Credit: Chinanews.com

 

One thing that stands out to my eye when looking at the photos is the brown color of the lunar surface soil or regolith. Color images of the moon’s surface by the Apollo astronauts along with ┬átheir verbal descriptions indicate a uniform gray color punctuated in rare spots by patches of more colorful soils.

Apollo 15 astronauts salutes next to the American flag in 1971. The moon's regolith or soil appears a variety of shades of gray. Credit: NASA

Apollo 15 astronauts salutes next to the American flag in 1971. The moon’s regolith or soil appears a variety of shades of gray. Credit: NASA

The famous orange soil scooped up by Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan comes to mind. Because Apollo visited six different moonscapes – all essentially gray – it makes me wonder if the color balance in the Chinese images might be off. Or did Chang’e 3 just happen to land on browner soils?

The orange soil found by Apollo 17 astronauts really stands out against a uniform gray moonscape. Credit: NASA

The orange soil found by Apollo 17 astronauts really stands out against a uniform gray moonscape. Credit: NASA

 

About 

I'm a long-time amateur astronomer and member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). My observing passions include everything from auroras to Z Cam stars. Every day the universe offers up something both beautiful and thought-provoking. I also write a daily astronomy blog called Astro Bob.

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