Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2002 June 28
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Lunar Module at Taurus-Littrow
Credit: Daniel D. Durda (SwRI), Space Imagery Centre, LPL, Apollo 17

Explanation: Can the Hubble Space Telescope take a picture that shows the Apollo lunar modules on the Moon? With its 2.4 metre diameter mirror, the smallest object that the Hubble can resolve at the Moon's distance of around 400,000 kilometres is about 80 metres across. So, from low Earth orbit even Hubble's sharp vision can not image the Apollo lunar module descent stages, at most a few metres across, left behind at the lunar landing sites. A space telescope over ten times the size of Hubble could ... or a much smaller telescope in close lunar orbit. In fact, this picture does just resolve Apollo 17's Lunar Module, Challenger, and its shadow on the cratered floor of the Taurus-Littrow valley in the Moon's Mare Serenitatis. It was taken in 1972 from the Apollo 17 Command Module, America, orbiting about 100 kilometres above the Moon's surface and covers an area about 1.1 kilometres wide. Using a web site created by Dan Durda of Southwest Research Institute, armchair astronauts can explore orbital views of this and the 5 other Apollo lunar landing sites.

Tomorrow's picture: Deep Field: The Sequel

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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& Michigan Tech. U.