NASA’s new hypersensitive optical camera, ShadowCam, has captured stunning images of the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions that may serve as potential landing sites for the upcoming crewed Artemis missions. These regions have been in darkness for more than two billion years, making them a prime spot for scientists to search for hidden water ice pockets.

The camera has been flying around the Moon for nearly six months, attached to a Korean lunar orbiter, and is capable of operating in extremely low light. This capability has enabled the camera to capture unprecedented views of the hidden lunar terrain, offering a glimpse of potential landing sites for future missions.

An Arrow in the Shackleton Crater

Just as a full Moon can provide illumination on Earth, a full Earth can provide illumination on the Moon – this is referred to as earthshine.

ShadowCam’s recent images released by NASA showcase the haunting beauty of the Moon’s rough surface, including the shadowed wall and floor of Shackleton crater near the Moon’s south pole, the interior of Bruce crater with bright streamers, the bumpy surface of Marvin crater, and the central peak of Aristarchus crater.

The images were captured just after a new Moon, with the faint glow of earthshine illuminating the nightside of the Moon.

An illumination that results from sunlight reflected off nearby geologic features (mountains and crater walls) at the poles that rise high enough above the surface to reflect direct sunlight.

The ShadowCam camera is significantly more light-sensitive than other imaging instruments and has enabled NASA to gather critical information for the Artemis mission. By landing astronauts on the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions, NASA hopes to take advantage of the lunar resources to establish a sustainable presence on the lunar surface.

ShadowCam’s images will help NASA prepare for its upcoming trips to the Moon, where it hopes to retrieve water ice.

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