Wednesday, March 5, 2014

New views of Chang'e-3 from LRO

Four views Chang'e 3 landing site
Four recent LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) views of the Chang'e 3 landing site: A) before landing, June 30, 2013; B) after landing, December 25, 2013; C) January 21, 2014; D) February 17, 2014. Each image is enlarged by a factor of two, each field of view is 200 meters across. Follow Yutu's path clockwise around the lander in panel D [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Mark Robinson
Principal Investigator
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC)
Arizona State University

Chang'e 3 landed on Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains) on 14 December 2013. LROC has now imaged the lander and rover three times: 25 December 2013 (M1142582775R), 21 January 2014 (M1144936321L), and 17 February 2014 (M1147290066R). From month-to-month the solar incidence angle decreased steadily from 77° to 45° (incidence angle at sunset is 90°); due to the latitude of the site (44.1214°N, 340.4884°E, -2630 meters elevation) the incidence angle cannot get much smaller. Solar incidence angle is a measure of the Sun above the horizon; at noon on the equator the Sun is overhead and the incidence angle is 0°, at dawn or dusk the incidence angle is 90°.

Four views of the Chang'e 3 landing site from before the landing until Feb 2014 [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
As the Sun gets higher above the horizon, topography appears subdued and reflectance differences become more apparent. In the case of the Chang'e 3 site, with the Sun higher in the sky one can now see Yutu's tracks (February image). In the opening image you can see Yutu about 30 meters south of the lander, then it moved to the northwest and parked 17 meters southwest of the lander. In the February image it is apparent that Yutu did not move appreciably from the January location.

LROC February Chang'e 3 Site Image
LROC February 2014 image of Chang'e 3 site. Blue arrow indicates Chang'e 3 lander, yellow arrow points to Yutu (rover), and white arrow marks the December location of Yutu. Yutu's tracks can be followed clockwise around the lander to its current location. Image enlarged 2x, width 200 meters [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Owing to the lower solar incidence angle the latest NAC image better shows Yutu's tracks and the lander engine blast zone (high reflectance) that runs north-to-south relative to the lander. Next month the solar incidence angle will again increase and subtle landforms will begin to dominate the landscape.

LROC NAC Oblique Chang'e 3
LRO slewed 54° to the East on February 16 to allow LROC to snap a dramatic oblique view of the Chang'e 3 site (arrow).  Crater in front of lander is 450 m diameter, image width 2900 meters at the center M1145007448LR [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Some Related Posts and LROC Featured Images:
Geologic Characteristics: Chang'e-3 exploration region
ESA on Yutu, as controllers wait for Feb. 9 sunrise
Chang'e 3 Lander and Rover From Above
Safe on the Surface of the Moon
Recent Impact
Coordinates of Robotic Spacecraft

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