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Vendredi, 09 Septembre 2011 19:00

Moon Satellite Gives New Glimpse of Lunar North Pole

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Moon Satellite Gives New Glimpse of Lunar North Pole

NASA has combined nearly 1,000 photos of the moon to build the crispest view yet of the crater-pocked lunar north pole.

The space agency created the new image by stitching together slices of 983 wide-angle photographs taken by a camera on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO. The image contains a psychedelic spiral in the center because the LRO collected the images from different angles over the course of a month.

A prime goal of the $583 million moon-orbiting mission is to hunt for water ice and other useful materials that may help future human explorers establish a permanent base. Just as LRO found evidence of water ice in south pole craters untouched by the sun, it may also exist in shadowed north pole craters.

To that end, LRO in August 2009 sent a probe called LCROSS into a permanently shadowed crater near the lunar south pole. (Water may exist in a frozen state near the surface of such regions because no sunlight touches them.)

The new view of the lunar north pole joins a lineage of maps compiled by spacecraft such as Galileo and Clementine. LRO has the most detailed view of the moon to date, and has photographed lunar mountains, strange spirals and even the tiny traces left by Apollo astronauts, their lunar buggies, instruments and spacecraft.

Image: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University [high-resolution version available]

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Moon Satellite Gives New Glimpse of Lunar North PoleDave Mosher is a Wired.com contributor and freelance journalist obsessed with space, physics, biology, technology and more. He lives in New York City. G+
Follow @davemosher and @wiredscience on Twitter.

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