Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

LRO First Light images of the Moon!

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitJuly 2, 2009 9:13 PM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

[Update: Ken Bowley on Facebook clued me in that the LRO camera has a page where you can see the raw images, and zoom in -- WAY in -- on the image strips. They have 73 cm resolution, folks. Yikes.]

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has returned its first images from the Moon! Woohoo! Check. It. Out!

lro_firstlight.jpg

Whoaaaa. This image, taken in the Mare Nubium region of the Moon, shows a heavily cratered area. The scale here is amazing: the whole image is 1400 meters across, or just under a mile. That's like looking out your airplane window... if you were over the frakking Moon! Even in this compressed image (click to embiggen) features just a few meters across are distinguishable. See that perfectly circular crater just to the right and a tad below the middle of the picture? It's about 60 meters across, just a bit bigger than two tennis courts end-to-end. It would easily fit in a football stadium. Holy Haleakala. It's a little difficult to interpret the image; for example, near the bottom in the middle I thought for a moment I saw a crater chain. I don't think that's real; our eyes tend to pick out linear features even when they aren't there. Too bad, because that would be cool; crater chains form when an asteroid or comet breaks up before it hits, and we do see them on pretty much every cratered object in the solar system. You can also get them near a larger impact, when junk ejected from the crater splashes out and lands nearby. I guarantee we'll see lots of such chains as LRO snaps more pictures. Awesome. Check this one too:

lro_firstlight2.jpg

This image has the same scale as the other, and shows a region of low hummocks undulating across the Moon. I don't have much to say scientifically about this particular picture, but I will say that it is eerily beautiful, and completely enthralling. I wouldn't mind having that framed over my desk! So there you go, folks. If you want to explore the Moon, all you have to do is sit back and wait for the images to roll in. And remember: when it settles into its final orbit, the pictures LRO takes will have a resolution of 0.5 meters, or 18 inches! Wow. I cannot wait to see more.

P.S. If you liked this article, you might like this one as well where I dissect an image of the Moon taken from the space station.

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In