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NASA Instrument Provides 3-D Moon Imaging

December 18, 2008

Different wavelengths of light provide new information about the Orientale Basin region of the moon in a new composite image taken by NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper, a guest instrument aboard the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.

The Moon Mineralogy Mapper is the first instrument to provide highly uniform imaging of the lunar surface. Along with the length and width dimensions across a typical image, the instrument analyzes a third dimension ““ color.

The composite image consists of a subset of Moon Mineralogy Mapper data for the Orientale region. The image strip on the left is a color composite of data from 28 separate wavelengths of light reflected from the moon. The blue to red tones reveal changes in rock and mineral composition, and the green color is an indication of the abundance of iron-bearing minerals such as pyroxene. The image strip on the right is from a single wavelength of light that contains thermal emission, providing a new level of detail on the form and structure of the region’s surface.

The Moon Mineralogy Mapper provides scientists their first opportunity to examine lunar mineralogy at high spatial and spectral resolution.

“The Moon Mineralogy Mapper provides us with compositional information across the moon that we have never had access to before,” said Carle Pieters, the instrument’s principal investigator, from Brown University in Providence, R.I. “Our ability to now identify and map the composition of the surface in geologic context provides a new level of detail needed to explore and understand Earth’s nearest neighbor.”

The Orientale Basin is located on the moon’s western limb. The data for this composite were captured by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper during the commissioning phase of Chandrayaan-1 as the spacecraft orbited the moon at an altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles).

The Moon Mineralogy Mapper was selected as a Mission of Opportunity through the NASA Discovery Program. Carle Pieters of Brown University is the principal investigator and has oversight of the instrument as a whole as well as the Moon Mineralogy Mapper Science Team. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., designed and built the Moon Mineralogy Mapper and is home to its project manager, Mary White. JPL manages the project for NASA’s Discovery Program in the Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft was constructed, launched, and is operated by the Indian Space Research Organization.

Image Caption: The left figure is a color composite of processed data that accentuates compositional differences in the moon’s Orientale region. The image on the right contains significant thermal emission in the signal and is particularly sensitive to small variations in local morphology. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Brown

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