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  (Source: nasa.gov)
Single laser pulse will help scientist develop topographic map.

The mysterious polar craters of the moon, often hidden in shadow,  will soon be shown in a new light.  NASA scientists are currently working to offer up illuminating details of their topography for the first time with the most precise and complete map to date, thanks to NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA). 

According to NASA's web page, LOLA, which is on board the LRO spacecraft, works by propagating a single laser pulse through a Diffractive Optical Element that splits it into five beams. The beams strike and are backscattered from the lunar surface. From the return pulse, the LOLA electronics determines the time of flight which, accounting for the speed of light, provides a precise measurement of the range from the spacecraft to the lunar surface.

"Recent papers have clarified some aspects of lunar processes based solely on the more precise topography provided by the new LOLA maps such as lunar crater density and resurfacing by impacts, or the formation of multi-ring basins," said Dr. Gregory Neumann of NASA's Maryland Goddard Space Flight Center."

The new maps are more accurate and sample more places on the moon.

"The LOLA data also allow us to define the current and historical illumination environment on the moon," said Neumann. 

Vital to finding places that have been shaded for long periods of time, lunar illumination history will help scientists with discovering areas that act like cold storage and are capable of accumulating and preserving volatile material like water ice.  They are generally in deep craters near the lunar poles.

"Until LRO and the recent Japanese Kaguya mission, we had no idea of what the extremes of polar crater slopes were," said Neumann.





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