Zee Media Bureau/Liji Varghese
New Delhi: US space agency NASA`s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) has beamed back view of the lunar surface back to Earth for the first time.
The series of images of the moon and stars taken by onboard camera systems, known as star trackers - at one-minute intervals on February 8 at around 23:45 UTC, during lunar night - was released by NASA on February 13.
The Earthshine – whereby the moon is not illuminated directly by the Sun, but indirectly by sunlight reflected off the Earth – illuminated the moon`s surface, allowing LADEE to capture features in the northern western hemisphere. The lunar probe was travelling approximately 60 miles (100 km) per minute along its orbit.
The main job of a star tracker is to snap images of the surrounding star field so that the spacecraft can internally calculate its orientation in space. Star trackers` lenses have a wide-angle field of view in order to capture the night sky in a single frame.
In the series of five images, the first photo shows the crater Krieger with the crater Toscanelli, in the foreground; the second shows another crater called Wallaston P close the horizon and part of the moon mountain Mons Herodotus; the third picture captured the lunar mountain range, Montes Agricola; the fourth one captures Golgi, about four miles (6 km) in diameter, and three-mile-wide (5 km) Zinner and the final image views craters Lichtenberg A and Schiaparelli E in the smooth mare basalt plains of Western Oceanus Procellarum, west of the Aristarchus plateau.
The USD 280 million LADEE mission was launched on a Minotaur V from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on September 7, 2013. The probe which was meant to span 100 days was extended after NASA officials found that the spacecraft had enough fuel to collect another 28 days worth of data. It is now expected to crash into the moon`s surface, ending its mission, on April 21, 2014.
Image courtesy: NASA