The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has shared some of the best photos ever taken of the moon’s surface through its lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-2.
According to a tweet made by the ISRO, the images were taken from a height of 100 km (62 miles) and was acquired at 4:38 IST on September 5. The Indian space agency, later on, published the photos on October 4.
In the high-resolution photo, a section of the Boguslawsky E Crater, named after German astronomer Palon H. Ludwig, and an area of the moon’s southern polar region are the main focuses. To be specific, the lunar features are about 10 inches (25 centimeters) across.
The ISRO especially noted that the extremely clear photo was thanks in part to the Orbiter High Resolution Camera (OHRC) that’s currently atop the Chandrayaan-2. The space agency even notes that the released image is the sharpest image to be snapped by any lunar orbital probe to date.
“OHRC is an important new tool for lunar topographic studies of select regions,” the ISRO said in the tweet. “With a spatial resolution of 25 cm from a 100 km [62-mile] orbit and a swath of 3 km [1.9 miles], it provides the sharpest images ever from a lunar orbiter platform.”
According to ISRO, the OHRC operates in the visible range of radiation and has a spatial resolution of 25 cm from a 100 km orbit—meaning it can distinguish an object of 25 cm on the lunar surface. With a swath width of 3 kilometers, it can scan a horizontal distance of the same length at a time.
The lunar probe is part of the ISRO’s three-part Chandrayaan-2 mission that launched in July and was designed to conduct a more thorough research over the existence of water ice that the spacecraft’s predecessor first suspected at the south pole.
Notably, the orbiter carries two cameras, which has different purposes. The other one is called the Terrain Mapping Camera, which began surveying the moon as soon as Chandrayaan-2 arrived in orbit.
In total, the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter is loaded with a total eight payloads that all work in harmony to map the lunar surface and will continue to remain in the lunar orbit for seven years, the ISRO says.
Previously, the orbiter had snapped two of the most iconic features of the Moon from over 2,000 kilometers away, the Mare Orientale basin and the Apollo craters using its LI-14 camera while Vikram was still making way to its destination.
Aside from the high-resolution photos, the ISRO also released some initial data from an orbiter instrument called the Chandrayaan-2 Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer, or CLASS. The device is designed to detect direct signatures of elements present in the lunar soil pr detect X-ray fluorescence, which lets scientists identify where on the lunar surface certain elements — like magnesium, aluminum, silicon, and iron — are located.
The instrument works best when the sun releases a solar flare, sending a host of X-rays to the lunar surface, according to an ISRO statement. Aside from the lunar surface, the ISRO noted that CLASS could also be used in applications on the Earth’s surface.
In September, CLASS took advantage of similar circumstances to a solar flare when the moon approached the Earth’s geotail, scientists’ name for the distorted bubble of Earth’s magnetosphere created by the constant push of the solar wind that spews out from the sun.
For now, the ISRO can only provide initial data from the instrument, but Indian scientists are excited by the potential the early observations suggest for Chandrayaan-2’s tenure around the moon.
“More detailed studies in [the] future along with observations from other space missions, will enable a multi-point study, essential to unravel the ‘dance of electrons to the music of magnetic fields’ around [the] moon,” ISRO wrote in a statement.
The following events are after the ISRO announced that it lost contact with both the lander, Vikram, and rover, Pragyan, on its three-legged mission.