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Scientists Present Moon Rotation In Full Lunar Glory

posted 19 Sept 2013, 06:56 by Mpelembe   [ updated 19 Sept 2013, 06:56 ]

Using data captured by NASA's Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter, scientists have created a stunning movie mosaic showing a full rotation of the moon recorded over a lunar month.

IN SPACE  (LRO/ASU/NASA) -  The rotating view of the moon was compiled from 110,000 images sent back to Earth from a camera on board NASA's Lunar Reconnaisance Obiter (LRO). The LRO has been orbiting the moon collecting topographical data since 2009.

The 360 degree view created by the NASA team, with help from researchers at Arizona State University (ASU), cannot be seen from Earth, because the moon is tidally locked to the Earth. Only one side is revealed when exposed to the Sun. While the moon does rotate, it takes one lunar month to complete a cycle, the equivalent of one complete lunar day.

The movie mosiac is comprised of images taken with the sun illuminating each rotating section.

The scientists had to take into account changes in perspective and shading as the view angle changed, so they devised an equation that describes how changes in Sun angle and view angle result in reflectance changes. They were then able to compute the solar and viewpoint angles to adjust levels of light and dark across its entire surface, adding natural shading in the process.

The movie mosaic begins with the view that can be seen from Earth, then rotates to the right to reveal Mare Orientale, a massive crater belived to have been caused by an asteroid-like object, the impact of which created circular ripples at the crater's edge.

The so-called "dark" side of the moon, notable for its relatively featureless surface, then rotates into view.

Two new lunar-exploration missions are set to further enlighten scientists about the moon. NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), which launched on September 6, will explore the Moon's atmosphere when it begins orbiting in October, while China has announced the launch of its Chang'e 3 in a few months, with plans to deploy a lunar rover for further exploration.