Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Spies Movement of Shadows Near the Moon’s South Pole

At the Moon’s North and South Poles, the Sun is never more than 1.5° above or below the horizon. The resulting pattern of daylight and shadows is unlike anywhere else on the Moon — or the Earth. After zooming in on a small lunar highland area near the South Pole, this visualization recreates the illumination conditions there over a period of two lunar days, equal to two months on Earth.

This close to the pole, the Sun doesn’t rise and set. Instead, as the Moon rotates on its axis, the Sun skims the horizon, traveling a full 360 degrees around the terrain. Mountains as far as 75 miles (120 kilometers) away cast shadows across the landscape. With the Sun at such a low angle, it can never reach the floors of some deep craters. Places the Sun never reaches are known as permanently shadowed regions. They are the locations of some of the coldest spots in the solar system, and because of that, they trap volatile chemicals, including water ice, that would immediately sublimate (transform directly from a solid to a gas) in the harsh, airless sunshine that falls in most other places on the Moon.

The Sun appears to travel in a circle at the Earth’s poles, too, but it also travels through a range of altitudes. From spring equinox to summer solstice, for example, the Sun is climbing higher in the sky, reaching an altitude of 23.4°. It only hugs the horizon for a few days around the equinoxes. At the Moon’s poles, the Sun is always near the horizon, and the shadows are perpetually long, sweeping across the surface with the changing solar azimuth.


View Comments

  • So many interesting articles on this site,....about most things of interest on spaceship earth, the moon or in the eternal space through which we travel at such breathtaking speed!
    Easy to understand and well written...It's a recommended and very appreciated app to have on any tablette or phone.
    Not for the pouting, identitarien, self-obsessed selfie crew however. Many thanks to all contributers and the editors from an old guy who's still amazed at the beauty of our world and universe, soon to once again to ship out to become part of it.....eternal thanks!

  • I love the clarity. All the other moon shots are in 8 dpi. Wonder why. Is there something they are not showing us? just sayin'.

  • $75 million dollar Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter 36 kilometers above the lunar surface and those are the best pictures it can produce? What a waste of money.

  • Go to YouTube and check out Bruce sees all Channel. He has lots of amazing close-ups you can see structures and there's a lot of activity. They are definitely hiding a lot. They have been doing so since we first our reconnaissance Orbiter around there before the Apollo missions.

    • Awesome channel. Bruce is great at circling and arrowing absolutely nothing. Good to know the cooks are alive and well.

  • I love it when a article talks about a wow something happened, read this exciting issue. So you read it and you think what in the hell is this about! It mentioned nothing of what the headline mentioned. Lol

  • Boy, the literary somersaults involved in creating a deceptively defensible clickbait title... Simply amazing. And tasteless.

  • My comment, rather question is P.J.F, please tell me the name of the app you are referring to. Thanks

  • What a waste of time, energy , money , resources and intellectual ability that could be used to improve this planet, efficiently apply it’s resources and improve life on earth. No!! We have to implore some grandiose idea that we should ‘conquer’ something mankind has no place to be ,and that we can challenge the natural world assigned to us by leaving it. History had another such ideologists nutcase that thought he could do the same thing. His name was “NIMROD” . His folly left an appropriate label for those doing the same today.

Recent Posts

New Structures To Harvest an Almost Limitless Supply of Freshwater

An almost limitless supply of fresh water exists in the form of water vapor above…

December 6, 2022

Don’t Use at Night – Common Sedative Can Increase the Risk of Heart Damage

More evidence has been discovered by CU Anschutz researchers to back up the idea that…

December 6, 2022

New Research Reveals How Genes Turn On and Off

Cornell University researchers have discovered a crucial mechanism in how genes are controlled through the…

December 5, 2022

Harvard-Developed Tentacle Robot Can Gently Grasp Fragile Objects

A jellyfish-like soft gripper simulates the mechanics of curly hair. You are aware of how…

December 5, 2022

Surprising Martian Discovery: Massive Mantle Plume Pushing the Surface of Mars Upward

Giant Mantle Plume Reveals Mars Is More Active Than Previously Thought Orbital observations unveil the…

December 5, 2022

Scientists Discover a Unique Gut Bacteria That May Cause Arthritis

A bacterium has been identified by the CU Division of Rheumatology that may trigger rheumatoid…

December 5, 2022