NASA releases interactive map of the moon’s north pole

19 Mar 2014

NASA scientists using cameras aboard the US space agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), have created the largest high-resolution mosaic of our moon’s north polar region.

The images making up the interactive mosaic were taken by the two LRO Narrow Angle Cameras, which are part of the instrument suite known as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC). The cameras on board the orbiter can record a tremendous, dynamic range of lit and shadowed areas.

The detail of the picture is nothing short of immense as the entire image measures 931,070 pixels square – nearly 867bn pixels total.

A complete printout at 300 dots per inch – considered crisp resolution for printed publications – would require a square sheet of paper wider than a professional US football field and almost as long.

Digitally, the required file size of this mosaic is somewhere near a staggering 3.3TB but for the sake of ease of access, it was divided into millions of small, compressed files, making it manageable for users to view and navigate using a web browser.

John Keller, LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, has said this is not just a source of interest, but an important scientific resource, as well.

“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.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic