NASA’s lunar map sheds new light on Moon’s darkest craters

June 19th, 2009 - 3:15 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 19 (ANI): NASA scientists have created a new lunar topography map with the highest resolution of the Moon’s rugged south polar region, which provides new information on some of out natural satellite’s darkest craters.

The map was created by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, who collected the data using the Deep Space Network’s Goldstone Solar System Radar located in California’s Mojave Desert.

The map will help Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission planners as they target for an encounter with a permanently dark crater near the lunar South Pole.

“Since the beginning of time, these lunar craters have been invisible to humanity,” said Barbara Wilson, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and manager of the study.

“Now we can see detailed topography inside these craters down to 40 meters (132 feet) per pixel, with height accuracy of better than 5 meters (16 feet),” she added.

Scientists targeted the Moon’s south polar region using Goldstone’s 70-meter (230-foot) radar dish.

The antenna, three-quarters the size of a football field, sent a 500-kilowatt-strong, 90-minute-long radar stream 373,046 kilometers (231,800 miles) to the Moon.

Signals were reflected back from the rough-hewn lunar terrain and detected by two of Goldstone’s 34-meter (112-foot) antennas on Earth.

The roundtrip time, from the antenna to the Moon and back, was about two-and-a-half seconds.

The scientists compared their data with laser altimeter data recently released by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kaguya mission to position and orient the radar images and maps.

The new map provides contiguous topographic detail over a region approximately 500 kilometers (311 miles) by 400 kilometers (249 miles). (ANI)

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