For years, scientists exploring the Earth’s moon have benefitted from detailed, three-dimensional views of the lunar landscape. Now, it’s easier than ever for anyone to see those same 3D pictures.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is a robotic spacecraft that circles the moon continuously, mapping the surface in gritty detail with its Narrow Angle Cameras. Sometimes, mission managers target a location for 3D imaging by sending the orbiter over the same spot twice, photographing the surface at two different angles. Those two perspectives can be combined to create a stereoscopic view.
One relatively easy way to recreate a sense of depth in those pictures is to split the images into red and cyan components. A viewer can then look at these pictures, called anaglyphs, through red-blue glasses, which have a red lens for the left eye and a blue one for the right. This sends only the correct part of the image to each eye, and the result is like magic: a picture with contours that seem to rise and fall right through the screen or the paper.
If you don’t already have some red-blue glasses, you’ll want to get a pair (they’re not too hard to come by) because the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter team at Arizona State University has recently assembled an entire collection of red-blue anaglyphs. See this page and search on the term “anaglyph”.
The moon’s surface is full of dramatic landscapes, and these 3D views are a fascinating way to explore them. Future robotic rovers and astronauts alike will find data like this to be a valuable guide to their expeditions. In the meantime, we can simply enjoy the incredible pictures. Here are just a few.
This post originally appeared as a guest blog entry on The Planetary Society site.