Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has been taking high-resolution pictures of the lunar surface, since 2009. This data with the information from a laser altimeter mapping instrument has allowed scientists to create an incredibly detailed map of the moon. NASA said that they can now confidently pinpoint any feature on the moon. This includes the exact location of its south pole.
A detailed “roadmap” will be extremely helpful for astronauts to accurately find their way, whenever humans return to the moon. Scientists has put together an interactive “QuickMap” where they can view and search for various areas on the moon.
The team of scientists adopted a coordinate system for all the data called the Mean Earth/Polar Axis coordinate system, even before LRO launched. It has now become the standard for mapping all lunar data.
This video is a data visualization showing the location of the moon’s south pole. The moon’s south pole is located on the rim of Shackleton crater at a point marked by a red pin, in the moon ME system. Goddard Space Flight Center scientists said that one can imagine Shackleton as a very big face of a clock with noon pointing toward Earth. The south pole is about halfway between 10 and 11 o’clock.
The topographical maps from LRO includes information from the laser altimeter. It zaps the moon an incredible 140 times every second. It measures the ups and downs, nooks and crannies on the lunar surface to an accuracy within four inches.
LRO’s Project Scientist Dr. Richard Vondrak said that that LRO’s legacy will be the basic ‘guidebook’ to the moon. It will be a handbook of maps to guide future explorers.
You can see all the incredible imagery of the Moon captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera at their website.