To celebrate its 5th Anniversary, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission presents the Moon As Art! Click on the thumbnails below to view full image and get more details on each. Choose your favorite, and vote below!
The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) sends laser pulses down to the surface of the Moon from the orbiting spacecraft. These pulses bounce off of the Moon and return to LRO, providing scientists with measurements of the distance from the spacecraft to the lunar surface. As LRO orbits the Moon, LOLA measures the shape of the lunar surface, which includes information about the Moon's surface elevations and slopes.
LOLA's laser pulse is split into 5 separate beams that hit the lunar surface in a cross-shaped pattern. The reflected pulses from these beams provide 5 parallel profiles along the surface directly beneath LRO. This pattern allows scientists to calculate slopes on the surface of the Moon in a variety of directions on scales of approximately 25 meters.
This image shows the slopes found near the south pole of the Moon, poleward of 75 degrees South. The bright red to white areas have the highest slopes (25 degrees or more) while the dark blue to purple areas have the lowest slopes (5 degrees or less). The steepest slopes are found in impact crater rims, which appear as brightly colored circular features throughout the image.
The interior wall of the Clerke crater has many distinct flows of granular material which narrow as they reach towards the floor of the crater. The source material originates from the crater rim. The debris appear higher in reflectance compared to the rest of the crater wall, likely due to differences in maturity and perhaps grain size of the material. The debris flows may be younger than the crater floor and walls if the flow was instigated by seismic shaking or a nearby impact crater. The flow may contain more boulders, which may cause the higher reflectance. The crater is 7 km in diameter located at 21.7°N, 29.8°E near the Taurus Littrow Valley where Apollo 17 landed on 11 December 1972 and is named after Agnes Mary Clerke
This image features night time temperatures at the Moon's north pole as measured by the Diviner instrument. Areas in blue and purple represent colder temperatures, while areas in orange and red represent warmer temperatures. At any given point in the Moon's orbit, half of the Moon is in daylight, while half of the Moon is in darkness. At the poles, we would see that half of the image would be much hotter than the other. This image was created by using the temperatures as measured at midnight at any given point on the surface. What becomes immediately obvious is the role that elevation plays on surface temperature. Sunward-facing slopes of crater walls appear hotter, while poleward-facing slopes (and in some cases of deep craters) appear much colder.
Linné (2.2 km diameter) is a very young and beautifully preserved impact crater. LROC stereo images provide scientists with the third dimension - information critical for unraveling the physics involved in impact events. The LROC science team presented a first analysis of Linné crater topology at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference last week.
The LROC team released a set of NAC stereo derived map products. LROC NAC Digital Terrain Models (DTM) are made from geometric stereo pairs (two images of the same area on the ground, taken from different view angles under nearly the same illumination). LROC was not designed as a stereo system, but can obtain stereo pairs through images acquired from two orbits (with at least one off-nadir slew). Off-nadir rolls interfere with the data collection of the other instruments, so LROC slew opportunities are limited to four per day.
On 10 June 2011 the LRO spacecraft slewed 65° to the west, allowing the LROC NACs to capture this dramatic sunrise view of Tycho crater. A very popular target with amateur astronomers, Tycho is located at 43.37°S, 348.68°E, and is ~82 km (51 miles) in diameter. The summit of the central peak is 2 km (6562 ft) above the crater floor, and the crater floor is about 4700 m (15,420 ft) below the rim. Many "clasts" ranging in size from 10 meters to 100s of meters are exposed in the central peak slopes. Were these distinctive outcrops formed as a result of crushing and deformation of the target rock as the peak grew? Or do they represent preexisting rock layers that were brought intact to the surface? Imagine future geologists carefully making their way across these steep slopes, sampling a diversity of rocks brought up from depth.
Tycho's features are so steep and sharp because the crater is young by lunar standards, only about 110 million years old. Over time, micrometeorites, and not so micro meteorites, will grind and erode these steep slopes into smooth mountains. For a preview of what Tycho's central peak may look like in a few billion years, visit Bhabha crater.