Dark Lunar Crater Illuminated by South Korean Probe’s NASA Moon Camera

NASA’s newest lunar camera, ShadowCam, has taken a picture of a dark lunar crater. In the image, a dark lunar crater is illuminated by the dim light reflected off the neighboring mountain. A part of the 2.85-mile-diameter Marvin crater is visible in the photo taken on February 28. Marvin crater is only 16 miles from the moon’s south pole.  With the help of ShadowCam, details of the previously invisible permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) have been made visible. ShadowCam is made to find reflected light.

While areas lit by direct sunshine would look saturated to the device, the ultra-sensitive ShadowCam is capable of identifying PSRs in very low-lit conditions. The new image highlights the considerable variations in illumination direction experienced by close-by craters. This is done by contrasting the lighting of craters within and beyond the rim of the Marvin crater. This is because the dim light illuminating the crater is reflected off the adjacent mountains.

Operating under the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, the Danuri spacecraft entered the lunar orbit in December 2022. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s cameras have been in use since 2009. They are built into the ShadowCam, which is 200 times more sensitive. The high-resolution photos captured by ShadowCam could offer important insights into the evolution of the moon and water frozen as ice in shaded areas.

In the course of its commissioning phase, the ShadowCam has already disclosed previously unheard-of information about the Shackleton crater. The camera is part of a bigger NASA initiative to study the moon better. Moreover, it is intended to aid in the selection of landing sites for Artemis missions that carry crew members. The information gathered by ShadowCam and other equipment on Danuri will assist NASA in better planning the Artemis missions. Ideally, they will open the door for a longer-term human stay on the moon.

Ursula Marvin, a trailblazing planetary geologist, is honored by having her crater called Marvin. ShadowCam can capture images of the interior of the crater because it is always under the shadow. The image taken by ShadowCam has revealed unknown details about the crater’s rim and surroundings. Scientists are especially interested in the PSRs in the moon’s polar areas. The presence of frozen water in the form of ice is the reason for this. The water would be a valuable resource for upcoming lunar expeditions.

Danuri has been operating its five additional payloads, including its primary camera, which has been sending back pictures. South Korea’s attempts to assert itself as a prominent player in the space industry are symbolized by the spacecraft. NASA and South Korea’s partnership has made it possible for both nations to gain information and skills from one another.