The Moon Zoo needs your help to identify and count craters on the Moon’s surface!
The Moon is perhaps the most familiar object in the night sky, but it still has its mysteries. Following the excitement of the Apollo Moon landings in the 1960s and 1970s, a new flotilla of spacecraft is exploring the Earth’s nearest neighbor. The images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter which you’re invited to explore with Moon Zoo show the lunar surface in remarkable detail, including features as small as 50 cm (about one and a half feet) across.
LRO is a remarkable spacecraft, the product of years of hard work by an enormous team of scientists and engineers who made the mission possible. It carries, amongst other instruments, an incredible camera, LROC. LROC is actually three cameras — two Narrow Angle Cameras which supply Moon Zoo images, and a Wide Angle Camera. Data from the first six months of the mission have been released by the LROC team through the Planetary Data System (PDS), and much more is coming.
The aim of Moon Zoo is to provide detailed crater counts for as much of the Moon’s surface as possible. Unlike here on Earth where weather quickly erodes any signs of all but the most recent impacts, craters on the lunar surface stay almost until eternity. That means that the number of craters on a particular piece of the surface tells us how old it is. This technique is used all over the Solar System, but the Moon is particularly important because we have ground truth — samples brought back by the Apollo missions — which allow us to calibrate our estimates. Planetary scientists have always carried out this kind of analysis on large scales, but with your help and the fabulous LRO images then we should be able to uncover the finer details of the Moon’s history.
Training is provided on the website. Learn more and join the efforts to understand the Moon at the Moon Zoo website http://www.moonzoo.org/