3D images of the moon's surface created

By Paul Harper

Photo / NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
Photo / NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

US scientists have developed a system which can automatically create three-dimensional images of the moon's surface using NASA images.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Narrow Angle Camera (LROC NAC) team from the University of Arizona and Arizona State University have developed a processing system which can create anaglyphs - images that appear 3D when viewed using red-blue/green glasses - out of pairs of images taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Human vision sees in three dimensions because our eyes are set slightly apart and see the world from two different angles at once. Our brain then interprets the two images and combines them into a single three dimensional view.

The orbiter can only take images from one angle at a time, however images taken in different orbits, from different angles, can be combined together to reconstruct three dimensional images.

The LROC NAC team have created a "digital brain" which does just that.

The new initiative was presented to European Planetary Science Congress by the University of Arizona's Sarah Mattson.

"Anaglyphs are used to better understand the 3D structure of the lunar surface," Mattson said. "This visualisation 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."

The images can be used by scientists to study lunar features such as craters, volcanic flows, lava tubes and tectonic features, which jump out in 3D.

Three dimensional images already created include the Korolev Lobate Scarp - believed to have been created as a result of fracturing of the crust as the moon shrinks - the Janssen K Crater, the Alpes Sinuous Rille - an ancient channel formed as massive eruptions of fluid lava poured across the moon's surface - and the Orientale Sculpture 4 - scars which result from lunar rock which was thrown out from the Orientale impact and crashed back to the surface.

The images will be published here for the public to see.

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