New telescope technology has enabled the capture of the highest resolution image of Moon using radar technology.
It took many years to achieve this feat, which is stunningly detailed. Tycho Crater is the focal point, which is one of the most notable impressions of the Moon. Even though the photo was taken hundreds of thousands of km away, it makes you feel like you're flying directly over Earth's only natural satellite.
The resulting image has a resolution of five meters by five metres and approximately 1.4 billion pixels. It covers the entire width of Tycho Crater (86 km) and 53 miles.
This bird's-eye view shows every wrinkle on the Moon's worn-out surface in vivid detail.
Radar image Tycho Crater. (NRAO/GBO/Raytheon/NSF/AUI)
The National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope, (GBT), is located in West Virginia. It is the largest fully steerable radio telescope. This allows astronomers the freedom to direct their beady eyes in any direction that they choose.
Raytheon Intelligence & Space installed a radar transmitter on the satellite earlier this year. It is capable of sending pulses into near-space.
Each of these signals bounces off of the Moon's surface and is retrieved by West Virginia's National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
Galen Watts, GBO engineer, explains that the stored pulses are compared and then analyzed to create an image.
Researchers tested the system in January by taking a radar photo of the Apollo 15 landing site. This proved that the system could be used to take high-definition images from Earth.
Radar image of Apollo 15 landing site. (Sophia Dagnello/NRAO/GBO/Raytheon/AUI/NSF/USGS)
They were able to capture a much higher resolution image of Tycho crater months later.
Watts explains that the transmitter, target, and receivers all move constantly as we move through space.
This is a great way to get more data, even though you may think it might make creating an image more difficult.
Astronomers can see more angles because each return radar pulse has information from a different orientation than a stationary observation.
Scientists can now calculate distance from a target and speed with greater accuracy.
Watts says that radar data such as this has never before been recorded at this resolution or distance."
"This has been done before at distances between a few hundred and a few thousand kilometers, but not at the hundreds of thousands of km scales of the project, nor with the high resolutions of one meter at these distances."
Watts claims that it would have taken several months to compute an image from one radar signal received 10 years ago. It would have taken more than a year to get an image from one received radar signal.
Astronomers believe the new technology will enable us to see parts of the Solar System that we have never seen before, all from the comfort of our planet.