NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

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Now you can zoom and pan on a map of the moon as easily as you might check out an Earthly location on Google Maps. NASA has released a free, online, high-resolution map of the north pole of the moon. The images come from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which set out in 2009 to map the moon in detail; find landing spots for future missions; and assess minerals and water in the moon’s soil.

For a sense of the map’s power, may we suggest visiting the interactive map, then clicking on one of the thumbnails underneath the map. It just doesn’t stop zooming.

Some fun facts about this map:

  • Each pixel represents 2 meters.
  • The map is made up of 681 billion pixels.
  • To make the map, scientists collected 10,581 images over four years. The final map is a mosaic of those images.
  • To gather each individual image, cameras on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter take a picture of the same latitude once every two hours over a month. As the moon rotates underneath the orbiter, this brings each part of the latitude within view of the cameras. The result is a “collar” mosaic, below. This technique ensures similar lighting for different parts of the map.

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  • Portland-based GigaPan provided the storage and web interface for this map. We’ve long admired the company’s ability to host super-zoomable, panoramic images. Check out this photo of a trading floor or this one of Dubai.