Chandrayaan-1 is mapping the Moon

By Phil Plait | November 24, 2008 11:20 am

The Indian lunar probe Chandrayaan-1 is now mapping the Moon! Here’s a sweet image they just released:

Chandrayaan-1 image of the lunar south pole
Chandrayaan-1 image of the lunar south pole. Image courtesy ESA and ISRO.

This is a shot of a region near the Moon’s south pole (click it to embiggen). The biggish crater is Moretus, and is 117 km (70 miles) across. The smallest features you can see here are roughly a mile across then. My mistake– what you’re seeing here is the rim of Moretus, which is very large and not itself in this image. It’s unclear what the resolution of this image is, but it may only be a few meters per pixel. I really like that one crater smack on top of a ridge!

Chandrayaan-1 has much higher resolution than this, so I’m assuming this image is not shown in full res. Still, it’s very pretty, and I’m happy to see it. I’m hoping the Indian Space Research Organization will release more images soon, as well as some in full resolution. Stay tuned… and as usual, check Emily’s blog, since she usually gets the inside word on these things.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (33)

  1. Cool picture.

    Just a thought: will Chandra be flying over one or more of the Apollo landing sites? If so, will the landers be visible in the photographs?

  2. Is it just me, or does that look a bit like a face? Oy, there’s some “proof” of an ancient civilization on the moon! Quick, someone call Hoagland and show him this picture!

    For the record, I really don’t see a face, but it’s fun to go all Poe’s Law on the Woowoos.

  3. Nicholas

    I saw the face! That is the first thing I noticed. A race a ghost faced Moon Dwellers. HG WELLS must have been part of the Illuminati and knew the truth!!!

  4. Daniel

    ooooo….Perty. Why is ISRO delaying release of more pics? Chandrayaan has been orbiting and taking pics for awhile now.

  5. Retrogarde

    Congratulations India. Now work on equal rights for children.

  6. RJ

    Retrograde — india has equal rights for children, yet again dumb and ignorant!!

  7. Hoonser

    I always get lost in the Desolate Planes of Craterous Damnation. You’d think with the number of summers I’ve spent at the Lake of Shrieking Pain I’d know the way by now. Hopefully these maps will cut some time off the trip.

  8. kuhnigget

    @ retro:

    Don’t know where you’re located, but I suspect there’s a bit of “the kettle calling the pot” going on.

    I’m sure you live in a perfect world where nobody is exploited, there’s no poverty or crime, education is free and rampant, and enlightened people make all the decisions.

    Sounds lovely.

    In the meanwhile, I’ve got my little lunar homestead all mapped out. It’s that wee spot, just to the left of Phill’s favorite crater.

  9. Trebuchet

    Peter Kok, I believe that I’ve read Chandrayaan will NOT have resolution to image the landers. Note that Phil says the smallest features in the image are a mile across!

    Phil, you might as well put a note about the ability to image the landers in every post with a moon picture. Although it’ll probably get asked anyhow!

  10. Mchl

    This so obviously a hoax. Just look how unnatural it looks like. The shadows are all wrong, and there’s no way an impact crater could look like those artefacts. It’s well known fact, that NASA has paid Indians, to support their 70’s moon scam…

    OK…. so that’s maybe not the most imaginative conspiracy, but probably one of the first about Indian Moon program 😀

  11. Arneb

    Phil, I think you got a glitch here. The “biggish crater” is not Moretus – at 117kmi diameter, any crater ought to be complex rather than simple. The Wikipedia site on Moretus crater carries the same Chandrayaan image, and it says that the ridge running through the image is the r i m of Moretus crater.

    That would also make for better resolution in the image, wouldn’t it?

  12. Trebuchet, thanks. Shame though: I think the Hi-Rise pictures of Spirit and Phoenix were wonderful, and great PR for NASA. It would have been of some historical importance (not even so much for the hoaxers) to see the Apollo landing sites.

  13. Mchl

    Arneb, you might be right. I found some pictures of Moretus here

  14. Gyan

    Sorry if this is already pointed out, but the ” large crater” you see is just a small crater on the rim of Moretus crater and is about 5km .. the resolution one will get is or the order of 5 meter (and NOT a mle) !

    If curious, just type in “Moretus crater” in google moon) zoom in as much as you can, what you see is on the rim (about 2 o clock, if you consider north at 12 o clock).

  15. Mchl

    Here’s Moretus in even beter detail (photograhed by Lunar Orbiter IV)

    There are at least three places that look similar to Chandrayaan picture… I think it’s really easy to get lost on the Moon…

  16. Brian Schlosser, Lurker


    It wouldn’t stop all the hoaxers, sadly. It would only stop the ones who thinks we didn’t go there at all… lots of them think we sent robots to leave the landers as props…

  17. rob

    @ Mchl:

    i agree. it’s a hoax. if you turn the image over and look at the back, you will see the date stamp and the franchise i.d. number of the kodak store where they sent the film to get developed.

  18. gopher65

    It’s weird to think that all of those tiny craters are about the size (or bigger) of the giant crater in Arizona.

  19. Scott Smith

    ooooooh.. ahhhhhhhhh.. mmmmmm.. gimme more. Do pictures like this count as.. mmm.. well dirty pics for astronomers? 😉 or is that regolithy pics?

  20. David

    As gopher65 initimates…the sense of scale is carried really well here.
    The smallest round thing you can see would keep you busy for at least a couple of hours…

  21. The closest landing site to this picture would be Surveyor 7 about 1000 Kms north, unfortunately one pixel of this photograph will be a lot bigger than the probe.

  22. It’s hard to find specifications on the Chandrayaan site, but the closest I could find is that the 3d mapping will have a “spatial resolution” of 5-10m.

  23. Trebuchet

    Pieter, I think the upcoming US orbiter will have the resolution to image the landers to at least some extent. But as B. Schlosser says, it won’t convince the Hoax Believers one little bit. At best, it may help tilt some fence sitters in the correct direction.

    For the rest of us, it’ll be fun to see!

  24. Let’s try to answer several questions at once – but really, people, all the information is out there already if you browse a bit. The Chandrayaan camera has a resolution of 5 m/pixel at 100 km. An Apollo LM is 10 m across (diagonal, footpad to footpad) – it will be seen, but not recognizable. But don’t forget the LM is not the only artifact. Complex patterns of darkened soil were created by astronaut footprints and rover tracks, and the camera wikll easily resolver them. In fact, the Kaguya camera with 10 m/opixel resolution already did at Apollo 15. Check out the JAXA release on Apollo 15 (via Google) and you can see their image. They identify the bright patch created by exhaust, but clearly visible are the dark spots of disturbed soil around the LM and the ALSEP, which were also photographed from the LM during liftoff. Chandrayaan will better that.

  25. … also, LRO has 50 cm/pixel resolution, which will reveal a lot, like HiRISE at Mars. Hoaxers? The ones behind it don’t believe it anyway, they are just trying to get hits on their websites. Only lower level hoax followers believe it, usually just temporarily.

  26. Crudely Wrott

    A Face On The Moon.
    And it’s winking at us.

  27. At 5m/pixel I think there is a slight chance that it might be able to resolve the S-IV stage impact debris fields (craters?) from a couple of the Apollo missions.

  28. Hey, did anybody notice that there’s a giant molar buried south of the large crater. Maybe belongs to Xenu.

  29. I´m not astronomer, and I don´t want to see pictures of Apollo landing sites, just to convince others that we were there. One of the coolest images of Mars (for me just being an Architect) is the one showing the Mer. That´s just too awesome!. as Pieter Kok said, maybe is great PR for NASA, but for all of us that´s pure inspiration and a sample of hardcore human spirit and achievement. Just the thought of an incredible device, orbiting another planet !, while pointing at a precise place to take a pictures of a robot (!!) exploring the surface, all objects man made…. I mean..c´mon! I want to see those landing sites, I want to see the rovers, the footprints if possible, I want to see the flag, that would be historical. .. Some of you are underestimating the importance of that event and relating it only with the conspiracies. Is more than that.. A lot more.
    Out of topic, Phil congrats for the book, just got mine here in Bogotá, Colombia.

  30. John

    @ PHIL

    Phil…you’re usually up-to-date on things happening astro-wise, however, saying “Here’s a sweet image they just released” (emphsis on word ‘just’), sounds a bit old as this image was released a week ago today (18 Nov).

    I’m a lunar enthusiast and report regularly about thing’s happening with Moon research and present/future missions, however, from experience, not a lot of people are interested that much in our nearest, natural satellite.

    There are a good few of us out there who could tell you a lot about the Moon, and the picture above — here’s a tease, see that small-ish crater at the five-o-clock position just on the ridge from the large crater , well, something very interesting has happened there (Hint: look at its left side flank that is missing — where has that material gone?)

    Teasers, and knowledge, like this has been handed out freely to us enthusiasts for the last several years now from one of the main professionals promoting the Moon today — Chuck Wood. If you want to stay up-to-date with things happening at and on the Moon, then PHIL (and readers) join him at his wonderful LPOD site ( today — it definitely is one to look out for.

    While you’re there, check out my own site (, too — it’s got news on lunar research, on present and future missions, oh and yeah, it’s got one of the most detailed Moon Poaters around today :-))


  31. John

    Ooops…sorry, that should be Moon POSTERS — finger slipped :-)))

    John —

  32. John Radford

    Where are all the Chandrayaan images, and why are they not releasing them to the public? Why would there be any delay whatsoever in doing this?


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