Lunar Snapshot
March 23, 2014

Lunar Snapshot

Have you ever wanted to go to the moon?

Science fiction stories had us believe that one day the moon would be colonized and travel to and from there would be little different than a short day-trip. Thus far, that day has not come. I mean, we do not even have flying cars or hover-boards yet. Even so, while we have visited the moon, there is still a great draw to it. Mostly because it exists out of reach for most of us, leaving us able to do little else save gaze up upon it and wonder what it must be like to see her up close for ourselves. Thanks to NASA, getting that close-up view of Luna is now possible for anyone with web access.

Using their Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), NASA has taken a picture of the moon available for anyone to see, but not just any ordinary snapshot. They have created the largest high-resolution mosaic of the moon’s north polar region ever taken. At six-and-a-half feet (two-meters) per pixel, and nearly 867 billion pixels total, the image covers an area of the moon roughly equal to a quarter of the United States. The image is made up of 931,070 pixels square, which means a complete print out of this mosaic at 300 dots per inch, which most would consider crisp resolution for most print, would make the mosaic nearly as long as a professional U.S. football field. If all collected into one file, that file would require 3.3 terabytes of storage space, which is why the image is divided into millions of smaller, compressed files instead.

While primarily used for research purposes, such as finding the best landing spots for future visits to the moon, the best part about this project is that it has been made freely available to the public via the Internet. Just as with the Helioviewer Project and giving us a closer look at our brightly burning star, viewers are able to go to the site, select the image of the moon, and zoom in as close as they like. It may not be walking on the moon with your own two feet, but it is as close as many of us are going to get and it is still simply incredible to see.

Would you like to see if for yourself? You can here.

This project took nearly four years to complete, but it was all well worth it. Thanks to the team working on/with the LRO, we now have a detailed map of the moon’s north polar regions. LRO, which entered the lunar orbit back in June of 2009, has been instrumental in our study of the moon. Not merely just a floating hunk of space rock as most people assume, the moon remains a source of great intrigue for many scientists and researchers. Using LRO, they have been able to not only map parts of the moon’s surface, but also probe the radiation environment, investigate possible water and mineral resources, and gather geological data regarding the moon’s formation.

So go ahead and take a look at Luna up close for yourselves. It is quite the treat.

Image Credit: NASA / Goddard / Arizona State University

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