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NASA Spacecraft Reveals Recent Geological Activity on the Moon

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University/Smithsonian Institution

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University/Smithsonian Institution

New images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft show the moon’s crust is being stretched, forming minute valleys in a few small areas on the lunar surface. Scientists propose this geologic activity occurred less than 50 million years ago, which is considered recent compared to the moon’s age of more than 4.5 billion years.

A team of researchers analyzing high-resolution images obtained by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) show small, narrow trenches typically much longer than they are wide. This indicates the lunar crust is being pulled apart at these locations. These linear valleys, known as graben, form when the moon’s crust stretches, breaks and drops down along two bounding faults. A handful of these graben systems have been found across the lunar surface.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/news/lunar-graben.html

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LRO’s LAMP Reveals Lunar Surface Features

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

New maps produced by the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal features at the Moon’s northern and southern poles in regions that lie in perpetual darkness. LAMP, developed by Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), uses a novel method to peer into these so-called permanently shadowed regions (PSRs), making visible the invisible. LAMP’s principal investigator is Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division.

The LAMP maps show that many PSRs are darker at far-ultraviolet wavelengths and redder than nearby surface areas that receive sunlight. The darker regions are consistent with large surface porosities — indicating “fluffy” soils — while the reddening is consistent with the presence of water frost on the surface.

Full Story: http://www.swri.org/9what/releases/2012/lamp.htm

LRO Camera Team Releases High Resolution Global Topographic Map of Moon

November 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/DLR/ASU

Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/DLR/ASU

The science team that oversees the imaging system on board NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has released the highest resolution near-global topographic map of the moon ever created.

This new topographic map, from Arizona State University in Tempe, shows the surface shape and features over nearly the entire moon with a pixel scale close to 100 meters (328 feet). A single measure of elevation (one pixel) is about the size of two football fields placed side-by-side.

Although the moon is our closest neighbor, knowledge of its morphology is still limited. Due to instrumental limitations of previous missions, a global map of the moon’s topography at high resolution has not existed until now. With the LRO Wide Angle Camera and the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument, scientists can now accurately portray the shape of the entire moon at high resolution.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/news/lro-topo.html

Map of Moon Reveals Titanium Treasure Troves

October 11, 2011 Leave a comment

A map of the Moon combining observations in visible and ultraviolet wavelengths shows a treasure trove of areas rich in Titanium ores. Not only is Titanium a valuable mineral, it is key to helping scientists unravel the mysteries of the Moon’s interior.  Mark Robinson and Brett Denevi will be presenting the results from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission today at the joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences.

“Looking up at the Moon, its surface appears painted with shades of grey – at least to the human eye. But with the right instruments, the Moon can appear colourful,” said Robinson, of Arizona State University. “The maria appear reddish in some places and blue in others.  Although subtle, these colour variations tell us important things about the chemistry and evolution of the lunar surface.  They indicate the titanium and iron abundance, as well as the maturity of a lunar soil.”

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Wide Angle Camera (WAC) is imaging the surface in seven different wavelengths at a resolution of between 100 and 400 metres per pixel. Specific minerals reflect or absorb strongly certain parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, so the wavelengths detected by LROC WAC help scientists better understand the chemical composition of the lunar surface.

Full Story: http://www.europlanet-eu.org/outreach/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=360&Itemid=41

New LROC Images Offer Sharper Views of Apollo 12, 14, 17 Sites

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Photo by: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Photo by: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

The Arizona State University team that oversees the imaging system on board NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has released the sharpest images ever taken from space of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 sites, more clearly showing the paths made when the astronauts explored these areas.

The higher resolution of these images is possible because of adjustments made to LRO’s elliptical orbit. On Aug. 10 a special pair of stationkeeping maneuvers were performed in place of the standard maneuvers, lowering LRO from its usual altitude of 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) to an altitude that dipped as low as 21 kilometers (nearly 13 miles) as it passed over the Moon’s surface.

Full Story: http://asunews.asu.edu/20110906_apollosites