Apollo 15 mission to the moon is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. The photographs the iconic astronauts brought back were the first of their kind, giving us as close a look as possible of the lunar surface. However, one really detailed photograph of the Apollo Landing site that’s impressing everyone wasn’t taken from the moon. Instead, it is a proof of a new super powerful imaging technology here on Earth which captured this highly detailed image of the lunar surface, from over 3 lakh kilometres away!
The glorious photo is of the Apollo 15 Moon landing site. The device has been designed by Raytheon Intelligence & Space for the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. The test images were taken as a sort of “proof of the concept” of this newly developed technology. They bounced powerful radar signals off the lunar surface. The resolution of the resultant image is phenomenal, capturing objects as small as 5 metres (16.4 feet).
The team thinks they can further improve this technology in the future and capture images as far as the surface of Neptune.
Last November, the team’s transmitter sent out a radar signal to the Moon. The area, a disc 3,474.2 kilometres (2,158.8 miles) in diameter, is the landing site for Apollo 15. The bounced back signal was the Very Long Baseline Array, collection of radio telescopes across the US.
While the device itself is new, the concept of radar-imaging the moon has been around for some time. The concept is useful as it can reveal even fine structures on the lunar surface. The same technology is used on earth to discover buried remains of ancient past, it is used on the moon to probe almost metres below the surface of the regolith.
The resultant image from the device is so detailed it has left astronomers in pure delight. As the concept is now proven to be true, it can be now expanded. A 500-kilowatt high power radar system is now in the process. “The planned system will be a leap forward in radar science, allowing access to never before seen features of the Solar System from right here on Earth,” said site director Karen O'Neil of the Green Bank Observatory.
While the moon is relatively near, and NASA is planning future moon missions, the device will be extremely useful in studying satellites and planets out of our reach. Not only that, it can be useful in studying asteroids, space debris, and other celestial objects that our current optical telescopes cannot get properly. The application of this technology could even help us understand the topography of these bodies, and possibly help us be on guard against potentially hazardous space rocks around us.