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NASA's Highest Resolution Map of the Moon Is 'Phenomenal


"...lunar scientists have waited for [this] since the Apollo era.”

Color shaded relief of the moon. (Photo: NASA/GSFC/DLR/Arizona State University)

With a pixel scale close to 100 meters (328 feet), this is the highest resolution near-global topographic map of the moon ever.

Created by Arizona State University in Tempe, which oversees the imaging system on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), this Global Lunar DTM 100 m topographic model is a first, since previous missions had lower quality instruments. NASA's press release states this map was created using LRO Wide Angle Camera and the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument:

“Our new topographic view of the moon provides the dataset that lunar scientists have waited for since the Apollo era,” says Mark Robinson, Principal Investigator of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) from Arizona State University in Tempe. “We can now determine slopes of all major geologic terrains on the moon at 100 meter scale. Determine how the crust has deformed, better understand impact crater mechanics, investigate the nature of volcanic features, and better plan future robotic and human missions to the moon.”


The LROC imaging system consists of two Narrow Angle Cameras (NACs) to provide high-resolution images, and the WAC to provide 100-meter resolution images in seven color bands over a 57-kilometer (35-mile) swath.

The WAC is a relatively small instrument, easily fitting into the palm of one’s hand; however, despite its diminutive size it maps nearly the entire moon every month. Each month the moon's lighting has changed so the WAC is continuously building up a record of how different rocks reflect light under different conditions, and adding to the LROC library of stereo observations.

The map covers 98. 2 percent of the surface of the moon. The small percentage left, NASA states, is at the poles where shadows prevent images.

The scientists say they believe this new map will be a powerful tool for them in interpreting the events that have helped shape the moon.

“Collecting the data and creating the new topographic map was a huge collaborative effort between the LRO project, the LOLA team, the LROC team at ASU and in Germany at the DLR,” says Robinson. “I could not be more pleased with the quality of the map – it’s phenomenal! The richness of detail should inspire lunar geologists around the world for years to come.”

[H/T GeekOSystem]

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