The Moon In 3D
September 25, 2012

Scientists Making 3D Moon Images From LRO Pictures

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Scientists are using data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to develop a way to explore the Moon in three dimensions.

The team used images taken from different angles and were able to generate rich 3D maps of the surface of the Moon.

The way a human brain deciphers three dimensions is that our eyes are slightly apart, and are able to see the world at separate angles at the same time. The human brain is able to interpret the images, and combine them into a single 3D view.

NASA's LRO orbits above the Moon's surface, and can see only one angle at a time. However, it takes images from different orbits, and those angles can be combined together to reconstruct a view in 3D.

Scientists have developed a digital "brain" to combine these separate shots into single 3D images.

The team presented their digital brain, which they developed for this task, at the European Planetary Science Congress.

They 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.

“Anaglyphs are used to better understand the 3D structure of the lunar surface,” wrote team member Sarah Mattson, of the University of Arizona. “This visualization 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.”

LRO has been able to snap hundreds of stereo pairs of the lunar surface, and the spacecraft is acquiring more as the mission continues.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera - Narrow Angle Camera (LROC NAC) anaglyphs make features on the Moon like craters, volcanic flows, lava tubes and tectonic features pop in 3D.