Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2024 July 24
Earth's Moon is shown with the heights of surface
features all greatly exaggerated. Also, the colors of the
Moon have been exaggerated so areas of blue and red are
more easily seen. 
Please see the explanation for more detailed information.

Exaggerated Moon
Credit: Data: NASA, Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter; Image & Processing: Ildar Ibatullin

Explanation: Our Moon doesn't really have craters this big. Earth's Moon, Luna, also doesn't naturally show this spikey texture, and its colors are more subtle. But this digital creation is based on reality. The featured image is a digital composite of a good Moon image and surface height data taken from NASA's Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) mission -- and then exaggerated for educational understanding. The digital enhancements, for example, accentuate lunar highlands and show more clearly craters that illustrate the tremendous bombardment our Moon has been through during its 4.6-billion-year history. The dark areas, called maria, have fewer craters and were once seas of molten lava. Additionally, the image colors, although based on the moon's real composition, are changed and exaggerated. Here, a blue hue indicates a region that is iron rich, while orange indicates a slight excess of aluminum. Although the Moon has shown the same side to the Earth for billions of years, modern technology is allowing humanity to learn much more about it -- and how it affects the Earth.

Tomorrow's picture: open space

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