NASA just released a huge mosaic of the lunar North Pole with images taken over four years with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. This mosaic was carefully constructed with over 10,000 images from LRO’s Narrow Angle Camera with all the images having roughly the same angle of illumination. As we’ve explored here before, LRO’s orbit takes it over the same spots of the Moon when the Sun is at different positions in the lunar “sky” so that the shadows look different every time. But, that might be confusing when stitching together one huge image as they have here, so they have it as if the Sun is in one position above the “globe.”
You can browse the 3.3 terabyte image without killing your computer by going to the interactive browser at: http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/gigapan/. There you’ll also see the image to scale on a map of the United States. I suppose it is only a matter of time before this imagery with this incredible resolution makes it into Google Moon. Each pixel has a physical size of only 2 meters.
At the start, the image looks a little strange, at least to my eyes. But that’s what happens when you project a round surface onto a flat screen. But you can pick any direction and just zoom ALL the way in to that 2-meter resolution.
There is an incredible amount of detail in this data. You can find examples of boulders…
You can’t quite mark up this image and map the features like you can in MoonMappers, but it is pretty good practice for pointing out and spotting those features what you will come across in those images. Plus, you can see how all these different terrains vary over a huge area.
It’s not quite as good as actually being there, I’ll bet. But it’s big and it’s gorgeous and it’s a little bit of the cosmos that you can bring right into your home. Go ahead and play! Then come back here and help actually map these features, measuring crater densities and sizes so that we can get more than a picture, but a deeper understanding of the geology of our planet’s satellite.