Moon Essentials: Turntable

  • Released Monday, June 24, 2024

In computer graphics, a turntable animation is a looping 360-degree view of a digital model that shows its shape and its interaction with light and the environment. The visualization on this page is a turntable of a Moon model built with Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter maps of the Moon's surface color and topography. Since the Moon rotates once per orbit, it's also a simplified view of its orientation relative to the Sun.

In this view, the virtual camera is at a constant 45° angle ahead of the subsolar point, the location on the Moon where the Sun is directly overhead. With apologies to Pink Floyd, it should be obvious from this that there's no literal dark side of the Moon. The far side (the one facing away from the Earth) is only "dark" in the archaic sense of "mysterious" or "unknown." While many scientific questions remain about the far side, we now know its color and shape with high accuracy, making it possible to simulate its appearance from any viewing and sunlight angle.

Near the terminator (day-night line), the Moon's rugged terrain, its craters, mountain ranges, rilles, wrinkles and cracks, are thrown into high relief by the low Sun angle. These topographic outlines fade like ghosts under full Sun, leaving in their place the dark maria and the bright ejecta and sprawling rays around relatively young craters.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

Release date

This page was originally published on Monday, June 24, 2024.
This page was last updated on Monday, June 24, 2024 at 3:28 PM EDT.


This visualization is related to the following missions:


This visualization can be found in the following series:

Datasets used in this visualization

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.