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A detailed look at the Moon’s north pole

The European Space Agency has released this image from its SMART-1 mission that orbited the Moon. At the centre of the image lies the lunar north pole.

SMART-1 orbited the moon from 2004 before being intentionally crashed into its surface in 2006. During its mission it collected around 32,000 images of small areas.

Images such as this one have been created by piecing together hundreds of smaller images into a mosaic.

The ESA notes:

The biggest challenge in creating this mosaic was the changing lighting conditions. Despite the “dark side of the Moon” misnomer, both sides of the Moon do experience night and day in the same way. The far, or ‘dark’, side has ‘days’ of two weeks just like the nearside and is ‘dark’ only in the sense that it was unknown to humans before the arrival of space probes.

The agency has hailed the mission as a success saying that images from the SMART-1 mission have given us a fresh perspective on the Moon.

Astronomers can use images like these to identify peaks on the north pole that are almost always lit and areas deep inside its largest craters that may never see daylight. These areas of constant shadow are of particular interest because frozen within them could be water ice and clues to the history of the Solar System.

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

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