November 19, 2008

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Unfamiliar View

image from JAXA/Selene - Kaguya Image Gallery

Do you recognize this famous lunar scene? A broad linear valley with a meandering rille down it center?
Its the Alpine Valley as never seen before. The Kaguya lunar orbiter used its Terrain Camera to capture overlapping, stereo views, and scientists in Japan combined them into a 3-D terrain map. And then their computer simply calculates what the scene would look like from any perspective. The Selene Gallery contains 4 different views, and a video flying from Imbrium down the Valley and then turning around and flying back up its center. This perspective looking from the NE up the valley illustrates that the sides are about the same elevation, but that in many places the edge of the valley is slightly higher than the land further away. This suggests that there may be a slight rebound to the edges. Presumably two parallel faults bound the Valley along which the floor sank, but the sidewalls seemed to have flexed upward as well. At the horizon the Valley seems blocked by the Alpes. From telescopic and even Lunar Orbiter images it isn't clear if a narrow valley winds through the mountains to Imbrium. Watch the video and you will discover the answer.

Chuck Wood

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