NASA has released the largest high-resolution map of our moon ever made, and you are invited to explore its craters and crevices right on your computer or tablet.
Images for this massive mosaic were collected over four years by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. What you see in the image above, and in a pannable, zoomable image here, is an area of the moon about the size of Texas and Alaska combined. At the center is the moon's north pole.
Moving around the moon, you can explore the appropriately named Wrinkle Ridge, which marks the boundary between Mare Frigoris and the lunar highlands; spot crisp, brand-new craters; and even see where a moon rock rolled down the central peak of Hayn crater, leaving a trail in the powdery moon dust.
The lunar orbiter was launched in 2009 with the express purpose of mapping the lunar surface. Its primary goal was to create an atlas of the moon's features and resources to help determine where future missions should land, and perhaps even where a lunar outpost might be built.
To that end, the robotic spacecraft was outfitted with seven suites of instruments that allow it to image the lunar surface, probe the radiation environment and look for water and mineral resources. It also searches for geological clues about how the moon formed.
Most of the images that make up this mosaic were taken by two narrow-angle cameras that can record a wide range of lighted and shadowed area. According to a NASA news release, 10,581 of these pictures were stitched together to create the map above. NASA says a complete, crisp printout of the map would require a sheet of paper wider than a football field and almost as long.
But all you need to see it is a computer screen. Technology, and science, are amazing.
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