Break out the Cat Stevens. We've got some moon shadows to stare into, thanks to ShadowCam.
The moon doesn't have a Pink Floyd dark side, but it does have some permanently shadowed regions that are difficult to photograph in detail. These enigmatic areas will soon be giving up their secrets. On Monday, Arizona State University shared a first look from ShadowCam, a camera capable of peering through the lunar darkness.
ShadowCam's evocative new view shows part of Shackleton crater near the moon's South Pole. ASU geologist Mark Robinson, ShadowCam principal investigator, described what we're seeing in a statement on Monday. The upper part of the image shows the base of a steep wall while the rest illuminates the crater floor. A thin line extending down from the top is a track left behind by a rolling boulder.
NASA is eyeing the unexplored polar region for a human landing with the Artemis III mission. The South Pole is particularly intriguing for its ice deposits. Water is a key resource for drinking and for potentially making rocket fuel for missions aimed at deeper exploration of the solar system.
ShadowCam is a NASA-funded instrument on South Korea's Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter spacecraft (known as Danuri). Danuri reached lunar orbit in December and recently sent back some stunning moon and Earth images, so now it's ShadowCam's turn to wow us.
Arizona State University and Malin Space Science Systems developed the camera, whose sensitive vision will be used to "search for evidence of ice deposits, observe seasonal changes, and measure the terrain inside the craters," NASA said. The data ShadowCam collects could help NASA choose future moon landing sites for both human and robotic exploration.
The first look at Shackleton is a beauty and it's just a warmup for ShadowCam. Keep an eye out for the wonders to come.