As the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter continues its mapping of the Moon, it can spot changes on the surface, large and small. And, it can check in on the other spacecraft exploring the Moon. A new set of images shows the Chinese Lunar Orbiter Chang’e on Mare Imbrium.
As Emily Lakdawalla points out on the Planetary Society blog, LRO gets a new, unique perspective on the landing site with each pass as the Sun is striking the surface at a different angle every time. This is in contract with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which has the Sun at the same angle for every pass.
Look out in the MRO image beyond the lander site. Notice how the craters and surface look a bit different with each different sun angle? This is especially true of light albedo features around small craters and very gently sloping, highly eroded craters. If you were to mark these images separately as in Moon Mappers, looking for craters and other surface features, you would probably mark them quite a bit differently.
So, LRO can show us that even the same surface looks different when viewed at different times of the lunar day. This has an impact (pun not intended) on how craters are counted and images analyzed. How big of an difference does it make? Help us find out as part of the Moon Mappers science project. Lighting effects matter when doing lunar science, and we’d like to know how.