In this image, north is up and the bright crater at the upper right is Theophilus. The dark ring in the image is due to the pattern formed by the transmitting and receiving antennas.
Credit: Image courtesy Bruce A. Campbell, Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, GBT Green Bank Observatory/AUI/NSF, Arecibo Observatory.


A striking new radar view of the Moon has been produced, one that reveals craters and other geological features hidden beneath the lunar surface.

Astronomers from the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum have used the Arecibo and Green Bank radio telescopes to produce the image.

Radar signals were transmitted from the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico and received at the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

This technique can probe many meters below the surface of the Moon, just like ground-piercing radar on Earth.

Hidden from view

According to a Green Bank Observatory press statement, by using radar, lunar structures that can’t be seen in optical images are possible because they’re hidden from view under the layer of dust and rubble that covers the Moon’s surface.

Credit: GBT Green Bank Observatory

Reason for the radar scanning?

Scientists are searching for unseen structures of lunar geology, such as lava-flow complexes and buried craters.

The image released is of the Moon’s southeastern highlands, showing the densely cratered surface formed as the result of more than four billion years of meteorite impacts. The radar can distinguish the age of some craters. Younger impact craters have enhanced “radar return,” showing bright floors and surrounding areas due to rocky material that has not yet been worn away by very small meteorites.

Courtesy of the NAIC – Arecibo Observatory, a facility of the NSF




Assets used

The Green Bank Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated by Associated Universities, Inc., under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.

Planetary radar at Arecibo is funded by the NASA Near-Earth Object Observations program managed by USRA.


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