The Moon Just Got Bigger

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Take a gander at this brand new image of the Moon from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which is one of the largest and highest resolution images ever compiled of the near-side of the Moon. For two weeks in mid-December 2010, LRO’s orbit allowed the spacecraft to remain looking straight down. Gathering over 1,300 images during this time, LRO’s imaging run allowed the team to compile a monstrous 24,000 x 24,000 pixel mosaic from the Wide Angle Camera (WAC), with a resolution of approximately 145 meters per pixel. The detail is nothing short of spectacular.

You can go the LROC website and see a 1400 X 1400 version, another 1400 X 1400 version with labels, and the full version that you can “Zoomify” and see incredible detail like never before.

Source: LROC website.

An Unusual Look at the Moon’s South Pole

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No, this is not a wheel of moldy Swiss Cheese. It’s an illumination map of the South Pole of the Moon. There are some areas on the poles of the Moon, particularly the interior of craters, that lie in permanent shadow while other areas remain sunlit for the majority of the year. This image was taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, which has a primary objective of unambiguously identifying these regions. This composite image contains over 1,700 images taken of the same area by the LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC) over a six month period, which works out to six lunar days.

Here’s how the LROC team described how they created the image:

“Each image was map projected and converted to a binary image (if the ground was illuminated that pixel was set to one, and if shadowed zero) to differentiate between sunlit and shadowed regions. All the binary images were then stacked, and then for each pixel it was determined what percentage of the time during six months that spot was illuminated. Presto – an illumination map! The LROC team is making daily (which is about 28 Earth days) and yearly illumination maps for both poles. Such maps will provide the foundation for planning future robotic and human missions to the poles.”

Anyone up for building a telescope inside one of those craters?

Source: LROC website