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Huge new Moon image

The Moon

A huge new mosaic image of the Moon's nearside has been produced from 1,300 images taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. This is a screenshot of the LRO Camera nearside online browse web page, where you can zoom in and pan around the lunar surface.

A TEAM USING the Wide Angle Camera aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft has produced a huge new mosaic image of the nearside of the Moon.

Because the Moon rotates on its own axis in the same amount of time as it takes to circle the Earth, it always keeps the same face toward us…known as the lunar nearside.

LRO, carrying a suite of instruments, has been in orbit around the Moon since June 2009.

For a fortnight in December 2010, mission controllers kept the spacecraft pointed straight down at the lunar surface, and collected around 1,300 individual images with which to make the mosaic.

The image will become the new standard for geologists studying the Moon.

The entire image can be downloaded from the LRO Camera website, or you can zoom in and pan around on an online version here.

LRO’s Wide Angle Camera (WAC) is remarkably small, with a mass of only 900 grams and easily able to fit in a person’s hand. As LRO orbits the Moon, the WAC builds up an almost complete picture of lunar surface every month. It was designed and built by Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) in San Diego, a firm which has produced many imaging systems for scientific spacecraft, including many ones on spacecraft sent to Mars.

Story by Jonathan Nally, Images courtesy NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University.

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