NASA releases new mosaic of the Moon’s Shackleton Crater, offering a close-up view of the Moon’s south pole

NASA unveiled a mosaic of Shackleton Crater on Sept. 19 that demonstrates the capabilities of two lunar-orbiting cameras that work together to provide insight into the moon’s south pole region. The image released by NASA was produced using data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) and ShadowCam.

LROC has been operational since 2009 and is excellent at capturing detailed photographs of the Moon’s surface, but faces limitations in photographing shadowed areas of the Moon, deprived of direct sunlight, known as permanently shadowed. is called area.

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ShadowCam is a NASA instrument on the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) Daenerys spacecraft. It was developed by Malin Space Science Systems and Arizona State University and was launched in August 2022. It is extremely light sensitive, up to 200 times the LROC. This feature enables ShadowCam to unveil features and terrain that LROC cannot capture.

ShadowCam relies on sunlight reflected from lunar geological features or Earth to capture images of shadowed areas. The ShadowCam’s high light sensitivity prevents it from capturing images of parts of the Moon directly illuminated by sunlight, leading to saturated results.

By combining images from both cameras, researchers can generate a comprehensive visual representation of the lunar landscape and the geological features of both the brightest and darkest parts of the Moon.

In this mosaic, the permanently shadowed sections of Shackleton Crater, including the interior floor and walls, are the result of ShadowCam imagery, while sunlit areas, such as the rim and sides of the crater, are the result of images captured by LROC.

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ShadowCam has enabled NASA to photograph permanently shadowed areas of the Moon with extraordinary detail. It has provided scientists with a better view of the Moon’s south pole region. The lunar south pole is still unknown to humans and is therefore of great interest for scientific exploration. It is thought to contain deposits of ice or other frozen volatiles. Since ice is composed of hydrogen and oxygen it can be used for rocket fuel or life support systems.

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