Lunar Topography in False Color

  • Released Friday, April 17, 2009
  • Updated Sunday, January 11, 2015 at 5:35PM
  • ID: 3582

An updated version of this animation is available here.

This animation is a brief tour of several prominent features of the Moon's terrain: Tycho crater, the south pole, and the South Pole-Aitken basin. The height of the terrain is color-coded, with blues and greens representing low altitudes and reds representing high altitudes. The view is match-moved to a companion piece showing the Moon in natural colors.

The elevation map comprises low-resolution data from a number of sources, including the Clementine and JAXA/SELENE spacecraft, combined with high-resolution insets for Tycho and the region near the south pole. One of the goals of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission is the creation of a high-resolution elevation map of the entire surface of the Moon.

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Elevation key

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Tycho crater and its bright ejecta rays are among the youngest and most recognizable features on the Moon. The crater is 85 kilometers (50 miles) wide and 4700 meters (15,400 feet) deep. The central peak is 2400 meters (7900 feet) above the crater floor.

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The floors of deep craters near the poles, including bowl-shaped Shackleton near the center of this view of the south pole, are in permanent shadow and therefore cold and dark enough to harbor potential deposits of water ice.

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The South Pole-Aitken basin, roughly 2100 kilometers (1300 miles) wide and 10 kilometers (6 miles) deep, is perhaps the largest impact feature in the solar system. It lies on the far side of the Moon, the hemisphere never visible from Earth, and was found only after spacecraft began visiting the Moon in the 1960s.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio. Some elevation data provided by JAXA/SELENE.


This visualization can be found in the following series:


This visualization originally appeared on the following tapes:
  • None

Datasets used in this visualization

KAGUYA DEM (Collected with the Laser Altimeter (LALT) sensor)

Formerly known as "SELENE".

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ULCN 2005 (A.K.A. Unified Lunar Control Network 2005)
Data Compilation | USGS

The ULCN 2005 (Unified Lunar Control Network 2005) is a lunar control point network that precisely measured 272,931 pieces of data produced by the USGS using existing lunar imagery or data from the Clementine and other observations.

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Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

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