NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration) just announced that a group of their scientists have constructed an interactive mosaic moon map of the lunar North Pole using four years worth of pictures (10,581 shots) taken from its LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter). According to a NASA report, the high-resolution map—approximately 867 billion pixels in total—includes an area equal to over one-quarter of the US and is detailed enough that one can see actual textures and shading of the terrain.
The mosaic moon map was made possible because the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter includes an instrument suite known as the LROC (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera). It also has two narrow-angle cameras that were also utilized to photograph the images. The LRO went into orbit around the moon in June of 2009 in order to map the lunar surface, “probe the radiation environment, investigate water and key mineral resources and gather geological clues about the moon’s evolution.”
Mark Robinson, principal investigator for the LROC at Arizona State University, told the press that the creation of this giant mosaic moon map “took four years and a huge team effort across the LRO project. We now have a nearly uniform map to unravel key science questions and find the best landing spots for future exploration.”
John Keller, LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland added: “This unique image is a tremendous resource for scientists and the public alike. It’s the latest example of the exciting insights and data products LRO has been providing for nearly five years.”
NASA encourages people to use the interactive mosaic moon map to its full extent noting that it is even possible to pan around the pole and zoo in and out as well. They note that if one were to print out the map at the magazine industry standard–300 dots per inch–it would take a square sheet of paper wider than a United States professional football field and nearly as long. They add if one were to compress the map into a single file it would take 3.3 terabytes of storage space.
(Image courtesy of NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)
LROC Northern Polar Mosaic allows exploration from 60°N up to the pole at the pixel scale of 2 meters.