NASA presented a new image of the Moon’s south pole. In its center is the Shackleton crater, the bottom of which is blocked by sunlight. The image was composed of smaller photographs taken during two different missions.
The South Pole of the Moon still holds many secrets. Some of them were discovered by the Indian lander Chandrayaan-3 Vikram, which landed in that region of the Moon in August. A lot of information is also provided by probes orbiting the Silver Globe – belonging to… NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) or Danuri, which was sent by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). Their joint work allowed us to look into this unusual place.
NASA presented a mosaic of photos of the Shackleton crater, located at the Moon’s south pole. This place is unique in many respects – its edges are illuminated by sunlight almost all the time, but sunlight never reaches the bottom of the crater. This is because the Moon’s axis is only slightly tilted (1.5 degrees compared to Earth’s 23.5 degrees) for an observer standing at the South Pole, the Sun would slide across the horizon throughout the year, never fully rising or setting .
NASA emphasized that if it were not for the cooperation of the two instruments, capturing such a view would be impossible. LROC was responsible for taking detailed images of the illuminated lunar surface, but could not see into the shadowed areas. The ShadowCam instrument mounted on the Danuri spacecraft is 200 times more sensitive to light than LROC, which allowed it to operate in extremely low light conditions. However, this instrument cannot capture details of illuminated spaces.
The study of the Moon’s south pole is particularly important in the context of future exploration of the Silver Globe. This area may contain layers of frozen water ice – and studying them could deepen our understanding of how the Moon and our solar system evolved. Ice deposits can also serve as an important resource because they are composed of hydrogen and oxygen, which can be used as rocket fuel or to power life support systems.
Main photo source: LROC/ShadowCam/NASA/KARI/ASU