The moon can look spectacular enough from here on Earth, but a just-posted NASA video showing the lunar surface in amazing close-up detail is also certain to take your breath away.
Billed as a “virtual tour of the moon” in glorious 4K, the incredible imagery has been collected by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft over the last nine years.
“The tour visits a number of interesting sites chosen to illustrate a variety of lunar terrain features,” Ernie Wright of NASA’s Space Visualization Studio explained in a blog post. “Some are on the near side and are familiar to both professional and amateur observers on Earth, while others can only be seen clearly from space.”
Wright notes how this latest video is an updated version of one released in 2011. While the camera path is the same, the data collected in the intervening years has enabled the space agency to create a far more visually stunning and detailed presentation.
The footage shows us a number of the moon’s physical features, occasionally mixing them with splashes of color that highlight other data that’s sure to fascinate any armchair astronomers tuning in. The fly-by of the South Pole-Aitken basin, for example, adds elevation data so we can clearly see its location. With a diameter of around 1,550 miles (2,500 km) and a depth of 8 miles (12 km), this is the largest and oldest recognized impact basin on the moon and covers almost a quarter of its surface.
Check out, too, the amazing detail captured in the imagery of Tycho Crater, said to be around 100 million years old. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, the camera zooms in even further, still in great detail, to focus on Tycho Crater’s intriguing central peak with a 100-meter-wide bolder at the summit, “the origins of which are still a mystery,” the video’s narrator says.
We’re also taken to the Apollo 17 landing site in Taurus-Littrow Valley, which we’re told is deeper than the Grand Canyon. Another overlay shows us the path the astronauts took during their three days on the lunar surface in 1972. You can even see the bottom half of the mission’s lunar lander and rover vehicle, where they’ve remained untouched for the last 46 years.
The U.S. and other countries appear to be once again taking a serious interest in the moon with various manned and unmanned missions under discussion, while private space company SpaceX is believed to be making plans to send two “tourists” on a weeklong trip around the moon.
The rest of us can continue to enjoy its splendor by gazing at it from here on Earth, though this wonderful new NASA video is definitely worth your time, too.