EPSC 2012: Exploring the Moon in 3-D with Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
September 25, 2012

Exploring the Moon in 3-D with Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Ref. PN: EPSC12/07

Scientists at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University have developed a way of exploring the Moon in three dimensions, using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). By combining images taken from different angles, their system automatically generates rich 3D maps of the surface of the Moon.

Human vision sees in three dimensions because our eyes are set slightly apart, and see the world from two different angles at once. Our brain then interprets the two images and combines them into a single three dimensional view.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter can’t – quite – do this trick, as it orbits high above the Moon’s surface, and can see from only one angle at one time. However, images taken in different orbits, from different angles can be combined together to reconstruct a view in three dimensions. All you need is a digital brain to combine the disparate shots together.

This ‘brain’ is provided by a new initiative, presented by team member Sarah Mattson (University of Arizona) to the European Planetary Science Congress on 25 September. The team have developed an automatic processing system that aligns and adjusts the LRO images, and combines them into images that can be viewed using standard red-cyan 3D glasses. This type of image is known as an anaglyph.

“Anaglyphs are used to better understand the 3D structure of the lunar surface,” Mattson says. “This visualisation is extremely helpful to scientists in understanding the sequence and structures on the surface of the Moon in a qualitative way. LROC NAC anaglyphs will also make detailed images of surface of the Moon accessible in 3D to the general public.”

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera – Narrow Angle Camera (LROC NAC) has acquired hundreds of stereo pairs of the lunar surface, and is acquiring more as the mission progresses. The LROC NAC anaglyphs make lunar features such as craters, volcanic flows, lava tubes and tectonic features jump out in 3D. The anaglyphs will be released through the LROC web site at http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/ as they become available.


Korolev lobate scarp
Lobate scarps (a type of cliff) on the Moon are found mostly in the highlands, and are relatively small and young. Scientists propose that they form as result of fracturing of the crust as the Moon shrinks. Why is the Moon shrinking? As the core slowly cools portions freeze from a liquid to a solid thus taking up less volume. Since the lobate scarps are small, hundreds of meters to several kilometres in length, and 10 to 50 meters in height, they must be young; otherwise everyday small meteor bombardment would have obliterated them. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

B: Janssen K Crater
Jannsen K is a roughly 12-kilometre-diameter crater on the floor of the large Janssen Crater. Several debris flows can be seen running down the walls of the crater. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
Full image (167 Mb): http://pirlwww.lpl.arizona.edu/~smattson/EPSC/M1100939332-M1100946475.anaglyph_5xreduced_trim.png

C: Alpes Sinuous Rille
An ancient channel formed as massive eruptions of very fluid lava poured across the surface of the Moon. The Apollo 15 astronauts landed on the edge of a Hadley Rille. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
Full image (72 Mb): http://pirlwww.lpl.arizona.edu/~smattson/EPSC/M1101223116-M1101201686.anaglyph_5xreduced_trim.png

D: Orientale Sculpture 4
Ancient radial scars of ejecta extend out from the Orientale basin for hundreds of kilometers and consist of aligned craters and massive dune-like forms. They formed as streamers of lunar rock thrown out from the Orientale impact and crashed back to the surface. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
Full image (177 Mb): http://pirlwww.lpl.arizona.edu/~smattson/EPSC/M184203175-M184188875.anaglyph_5xreduced_trim.png


Sarah Mattson
University of Arizona
From 24-28 September, Sarah Mattson is contactable through the EPSC Press Office


Anita Heward
EPSC 2012 Press Officer
Europlanet RI
Mob: +44 7756 034243
Email: anita.heward@europlanet-eu.org

EPSC Press office (24-28 September only)
Tel: +34 91 722 3020 (English enquiries)
Tel: +34 91 722 3021 (Spanish enquiries)
Fax: +34 91 722 3022


The European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) is the major European meeting on planetary science and attracts scientists from Europe and around the World. The 2012 programme includes more than 50 sessions and workshops. The EPSC has a distinctively interactive style, with a mix of talks, workshops and posters, intended to provide a stimulating environment for discussion.

This year’s meeting will take place at the IFEMA-Feria de Madrid, Spain, from Sunday 23 September to Friday 28 September 2012. EPSC 2012 is organised by Europlanet, a Research Infrastructure funded under the European Commission’s Framework 7 Programme, in association with the European Geosciences Union, with the support of the Centro de Astrobiología of Spain’s Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (CAB-INTA).

Details of the Congress and a full schedule of EPSC 2012 scientific sessions and events can be found at the official website: http://www.epsc2012.eu/


The Europlanet Research Infrastructure is a major (€6 million) programme co-funded by the European Union under the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission.

The Europlanet Research Infrastructure brings together the European planetary science community through a range of Networking Activities, aimed at fostering a culture of cooperation in the field of planetary sciences, Transnational Access Activities, providing European researchers with access to a range of laboratory and field site facilities tailored to the needs of planetary research, as well as on-line access to the available planetary science data, information and software tools, through the Integrated and Distributed Information Service. These programmes are underpinned by Joint Research Activities, which are developing and improving the facilities, models, software tools and services offered by Europlanet RI.

Europlanet Project website: www.europlanet-ri.eu
Europlanet Outreach website: www.europlanet-eu.org/outreach
Follow #epsc2012 @europlanetmedia on Twitter