NASA releases incredible map of lunar north pole

Check out this awesome lunar map!

NASA gathered together data from their Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), to piece together this largest ever mosaic map of the moon's north polar region. This amazing image (or at least the original, which you can access here) is so big that each of its 681 billion pixels represents a 2 metre by 2 metre square of lunar soil.

If you head over to the LRO site that hosts the full-sized image, you can zoom in, pan around and even check out various points of interest that they've identified.

One of the interesting things to note here is that even though LRO makes polar orbits of the moon, so it can look straight down onto the surface as it snaps these pictures, there are still parts of the map that are in shadow. Some of these are actually in permanent shadow — they never see the light from the sun. That's because, although the moon does have an axial tilt, and its orbit around the Earth is tilted as well, both tilts are pretty small. So, the sunlight just can't reach parts of these polar craters.

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LRO has been providing NASA scientists with some incredible data since it was launched in June 2009, but along with that, it's been providing these and other amazing images of our closest celestial neighbour. Some of the best have been the great topographical map that came out in 2011, and shots of the Apollo 11 landing site.

Some of the other objects in our solar system, like Mars and Saturn, tend to draw our attention a bit more often than ones closer to home, it seems. Maybe it's because we see the moon travelling across our sky on a daily and nightly basis that we don't pay as much attention to it. However, when you really take some time to check it out, we really do have a pretty fascinating neighbour after all.

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