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January 11, 2008

HOW HIGH THE MOON (AND LOW TOO)?

Filed under: , , , — chuckwood @ 12:01 am

OrientaleTopo-Selene.jpg
image from JAXA, Japan, and Lunar Orbiter IV added by C. Wood

Selene and the other lunar orbiters will do much more than capture images of the Moon’s surface. Measurements to be made include topography, chemical and mineral compositions, temperature, magnetism and gravity. Data from each of the sensors requires more processing and calibration than do the images so it will take a while for finished products to be released. This Clementine image with superposed Selene altimetry tracks is an example of high resolution topographic mapping we will ultimately have for the whole Moon. Seven swaths of altimetry data cross the center of the Orientale Basin. According to the color scale the lowest part of Orientale is 2-3 km below the average lunar radius of 1737.4 km, and the tallest peaks of the Rook Mountains are about 3-4 km above that radius. The highest parts of the Cordillera Mountains - the outer prominent Orientale ring - are 5 km above the average radius. The rim to floor depth of the Orientale Basin from Clementine altimetry is 6 km, but Clementine had poorer vertical resolution and larger footprints. The JAXA website says that their color calibration isn’t complete yet, but the promise of Selene and the other missions is that uncertainties will be removed and the Moon will become known.

Chuck Wood

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86 Comments »

  1. I always wandered, where is the zero point as sea level on Earth. So 1736.4 m would be 1m below sea surface :)?
    But again one must remember how high this mountains and walls and how deep the craters are.
    Our highest mountain in Slovenia is Triglav (”one with 3 heads”) at “only” 2864m!

    Comment by SandiBandi — January 11, 2008 @ 10:46 am

  2. Sandi,

    The 1737.4 is a completely arbitrary number subtracted to put the absolute elevations of features measured from the Moon’s center into a smaller range. Another number that is commonly used is 1738.0. Ideally, both are close to the average so that there are roughly equal amounts of + and – elevations. But these are in kilometers, not meters, so 1 m below 1737.4 km is 1737.399 km, not 1736.4. 1736.4 is *1 km* (1000 m) below this arbitrary “sea level”. And yes, the 2864 m from the seashore to the top of Triglav is less than half the difference in elevation between some of the points in this lunar scene.

    Chuck,

    For those who may be interested in comparing the Clementine and Kaguya data sets in more detail, the raw Clementine altimeter data are available on the LTVT download page at:

    http://inet.uni2.dk/~d120588/henrik/jim_downloads.html

    and can be plotted with that software.

    Those trying that exercise will discover it may be unfair to say that our imperfect knowledge of the topography of this region was due to Clementine having a larger footprint or poorer vertical resolution. The main problem with the Clementine altimeter data is that the measurements were acquired sporadically, rather than continuously, so although the individual points are probably pretty accurate results for the very small areas sampled, there can be tens of kilometers between sample points, causing significant high and low points to be missed entirely.

    Given that limitation, even with this preliminary calibration the two data sets seem to agree quite well. For example, Clementine orbit #70 seems to have taken samples along nearly the same path as the second Kaguya orbit from the right. At the top of that swath (between the Inner and Outer Rook rings) Kaguya shows a shade of green corresponding, as nearly as I can tell, to an absolute elevation of 1737.4 + 0.8 = 1738.2 km. Clementine has just one isolated point in this region (93.02W/11.01S), but its absolute value is the same: 1738.0 + 0.182 = 1738.2 km. Following the swath to the deepest part of the mare at the 20 S longitude line, Kaguya gives 1734.7 where Clementine shows 1734.6 km. At the 30 S line, the path is crossing the Outer Rook ring. Kaguya shows shades of orange corresponding to about 1741.0 km, Clementine (with fewer samples) found elevations to 1740.5 km. South of this, between the Rook and Cordillera rings, Kaguya shows a section of 1738.8 km green. Clementine found 1738.6-1739.1 km in this area. Finally, in crossing the Cordilleras, Clementine seems to have crossed over slightly different peaks than Kaguya, but it found an elevation at 93.46W/38.36S of 1741.7 km, which is pretty close to the 1742.0 km reds shown by Kaguya.

    Since the documentation for the Clementine data set is extremely sparse, I can’t vouch for how well calibrated it is, or whether it is measuring elevations relative to exactly the same lunar center as Kaguya. But based on the points described above, and a few others, the two data sets seem to be in remarkable agreement, with Kaguya perhaps tending to give systematically higher results, but by no more than a couple of hundred meters.

    I guess this a long way of saying that Clementine apparently didn’t do such a bad job; and that Kaguya (and hopefully the other missions to follow it) seems off to a good start toward filling in the vast gaps between the Clementine data points. But it looks like a lot more orbits (or some supplementary technique like stereo mapping) will be needed to completely fill in the gaps.

    – Jim

    P.S.: As I have noted before, using a color scheme to display elevations is helpful in some ways, but if the Kaguya scientists want to convey their results with precision, a simple gray scale would be better. With computer software (such as Photoshop) the gray levels unambiguously define 256 steps of elevation. Trying to match color hues and intensities is difficult and uncertain.

    Comment by JimMosher — January 11, 2008 @ 2:10 pm

  3. Thank you Jim, I learned something new again!

    Comment by SandiBandi — January 11, 2008 @ 5:14 pm

  4. Jim, agreed, but remember, in grayscale, it is difficult for the human eye to distinguish between to values that are closer to each other than we can percieve. So color does have its purpose. What is needed is a universal natural scale reference, that will allow us to download any info of that nature, from any Space agency, then adjust it so we can accurately interpret the results. Like myself, I have a tough time with arithmetic, as it is unnatural to me, while drawing and anything related to it is extremely easy.
    Maybe ImageJ can be used with a plug in to do that.

    Also, I can’t wait to see Selene’s final results inputed into LTVT. Man, that would be great!(hint, hint)Measuring shadows with more complete and fresh topographic measurements would begin to become Ve-Ry interesting.

    Comment by Abadin — January 12, 2008 @ 2:12 pm

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