Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio issued on October 20 a visualization using a digital 3D model of the Moon built from global elevation maps and image mosaics by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission.

Set to Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune, this visualization uses LRO data to show the stark beauty of evolving light and shadow near sunrise and sunset on the rugged lunar surface. Background music is performed by Timothy Michael Hammond, distributed by Killer Tracks.

Melancholy moonlight

The visualization was created to accompany a performance of Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune by the National Symphony Orchestra Pops, led by conductor Emil de Cou, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, on June 1 and 2, 2018, as part of a celebration of NASA’s 60th anniversary.

Clair de Lune (moonlight in French) was published in 1905, as the third of four movements in the composer’s Suite Bergamasque, and unlike the other parts of this work, Clair is quiet, contemplative, and slightly melancholy, evoking the feeling of a solitary walk through a moonlit garden.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter flies over Shackleton crater near the lunar south pole in this computer rendering.
Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Sunrise, sunset

The visuals were composed like a nature documentary, with clean cuts and a mostly stationary virtual camera. The viewer follows the Sun throughout a lunar day, seeing sunrises and then sunsets over prominent features on the Moon. The sprawling ray system surrounding Copernicus crater, for example, is revealed beneath receding shadows at sunrise and later slips back into darkness as night encroaches.

This video is public domain and along with other supporting visualizations can be downloaded from the Scientific Visualization Studio at:

Visualization Credits: Ernie Wright (USRA), Lead Visualizer and Editor; Laurence Schuler (ADNET Systems Inc.), Technical Support; Ian Jones (ADNET Systems Inc.), Technical Support; Wade Sisler (NASA/GSFC), Producer; and Noah Petro (NASA/GSFC), Scientist.

Go to YouTube video at:


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