See the Moon as Never Before

This post is part of Citizen Science September at the Zooniverse.

Not content with measuring craters and comparing boulders some Moon Zoo forum members go that extra step to produce something amazing. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Narrow Angle Camera repeatedly imaged some regions of the Moon under different sun angles or spacecraft angles.  By showing these images in sequence to produce animations the lunar landscape comes to life.


Apollo 11 Lunar Module, Eagle, using images taken at different spacecraft angles. Animation by forum member Jumpjack. The 3 bright features to the right of the Lunar Module are the Passive Seismic Experiment Package, the Laser Ranging Retro Reflector and its discarded cover.


The Apollo 17 flag shadow using images taken at different illumination angles. Animation by forum member JFincannon.

JFincannon also wrote a detailed entry for the Apollo Surface Journal. Using LRO  images and Apollo site maps to locate the flags he provided flag shadow animations for all 6 Apollo landing sites. These show clear evidence that the flags of Apollo 12, 16, and 17 are still “flying.” Apollo 11’s flag fell over during lift-off from the Moon and  JFincannon couldn’t find any evidence of the flag shadows at the Apollo 14 and 15 sites. Better resolution images might help determine whether these flags have fallen over or whether the tiny shadows are lost in the shadows cast by larger items.

Over the last 12 months the LRO took a small number of oblique images which involved the unusual move of rolling the spacecraft. Rather than pointing straight down at the lunar surface (0 degrees) the spacecraft and camera point at an angle, usually 50–70 degrees, and take an image looking across the lunar surface. The resulting raw images look strange and squashed but when stretched using image processing software they reveal some spectacular 3-D-like surface details. JFincannon posted a list of oblique images on the forum. Forum members then got to work producing some stunning moonscapes.


Near South Pole Aitken basin


 Northeast edge of Mare Vaporum near Manilus Crater.


Montes Caucasus region. Border of Mare Serenitatis and Mare Imbrium.


The dramatic lunar south pole

So come and see the Moon as never before. Help count and classify craters, contribute to building a hazard map of the Moon by comparing bouldery regions and search the high resolution images for yourselves. Then share your finds on the forum. We’re waiting!

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About juleswilkinson

Citizen scientist and volunteer. Forum moderator for the Milky Way Project, Solar Stormwatch, Science Gossip and Shakespeare's World. Owner of 3 telescopes, a dog and a meteorite.

3 responses to “See the Moon as Never Before”

  1. Michael Davis says :

    The 16mm film shot through the LMP’s window during launch from the moon clearly show the Apollo 15 flag flying away. This can also be seen from the Rover television of the event. The flag planted by the Apollo 14 astronauts flutters, but appears to stay where planted. Even at pitch over, the flag can still be seen standing. I’m not sure why there’s any doubt about that flag.

    It is not surprising that the Apollo 11 flag was also uprooted during the launch. Aldrin said in his books that they had a difficult time getting the base rod into the lunar soil. He said he was afraid it was going to fall down before they were able to get any photos.

    I find it rather interesting that the flags planted by the Gemini 8 crew are the only 2 that no longer stand.

    • juleswilkinson says :

      The Apollo 14 and 15 flags are very likely still standing you are right. We just couldn’t find any evidence of their shadows in the current batch of LRO images.

  2. Nathan says :

    Does the surface seem to swell and contract? Like a “frothy” powdered surface crust on a more solid under layer that at the swell creates hills from the additive inverse of the craters then upon contraction reveals the convex creator form?

    The “flag” pole seems to cast different heights from the drop shadow not to mention the seemingly apparent lack of surface contact and latitude changes.

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