The Moon’s South Pole isn’t something we see in photos, as it’s really difficult to capture. However, two cameras in space have teamed up to create an incredibly detailed picture of our satellite’s South Pole. Working together, the two cameras captured images of an area called the Shackleton Crater, which were then turned into a magnificent mosaic.
The first camera, known as LROC (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera), has been snapping pictures of the Moon since 2009. The second one is called ShadowCam and it’s part of a project by NASA and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). This camera took off in a spacecraft called Danuri in August 2022.
Now, why did NASA need both of these to create this image? LROC excels at taking clear pictures of the Moon but struggles in areas that are always in shadow. On the other hand, ShadowCam is extremely good at capturing images in these dark areas. It’s 200 times more sensitive to light than LROC!
Creating a full picture
ShadowCam can’t take good pictures of the well-lit parts of the Moon. The images get too bright and washed out. That’s where LROC comes back into play. By putting the images from both cameras together, scientists can get a full, detailed map that shows both the dark and light areas of the Moon. You get the idea – it’s something like creating an HDR photo using imagery from these two powerful cameras. The Shackleton Crater, for example, was captured in remarkable detail, showing its walls and floor in the shadow as well as its bright rim.
Why is this photo significant?
As we already know, images like this aren’t only made so we can admire them. They’re also a big deal for science. Astronomers are especially interested in the Moon’s South Pole because humans have never explored it, and might contain ice or other frozen substances. These ice deposits could be very old—maybe even millions or billions of years—and studying them could help us understand more about the Moon and our whole solar system. Plus, the ice could be used to make rocket fuel or support life, making it super useful for future missions.
Having this detailed map is also really important for planning future trips to the Moon, including missions like VIPER and Artemis. These projects aim to send humans back to the Moon and help us learn how to live there for longer periods.