The amazing video below is a showcase of spectacular imagery obtained by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Kaguya/SELENE spacecraft which orbited the Moon or a year and eight months and returned stunning views from its HDTV camera suite. A must-watch!

KAGUYA: The lunar orbiter

Nicknamed Kaguya (which was selected by the general public), Notes 1, SELENE (Selenological and Engineering Explorer) was the second Japanese lunar orbiter spacecraft. Notes 2

The spacecraft was launched on September 14, 2007. It orbited the Moon for 20 months. On June 10, 2009, the main orbiter was instructed to impact on the lunar surface near the crater Gill, which is located near the southeastern limb of the Moon.

Earth from the Japanese Moon orbiter SELENE (Kaguya)
Earth from the Japanese Moon orbiter SELENE (Kaguya).

The mission’s major results include:

  • Improved lunar global topography maps. This detailed altitude and geological data are provided to Google for free to make Google Moon 3-D.
  • Detailed gravity map of the far side of the Moon.
  • First optical observation of the permanently shadowed interior of the crater Shackleton. Named after Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, it is an impact crater that lies at the south pole of the Moon. The crater is 21 km in diameter and 4.2 km deep. The interior of the crater is perpetually in shadow (a crater of eternal darkness). The low-temperature interior of this crater functions as a cold trap that may capture and freeze volatiles shed during comet impacts on the Moon.
  • Evidence of Earth’s oxygen being transported to the moon via magnetospheric ions.

Notes

  1. Kaguya is the protagonist of Kaguya-hime no Monogatari, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” or “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter”, a mysterious girl from the Moon, who was discovered as a baby inside the stalk of a glowing bamboo plant. It is a 10th-century Japanese Monogatari (fictional prose narrative) containing Japanese folklore. It is considered the oldest extant Japanese prose narrative although the oldest manuscript dates to 1592.
  2. Launched on January 24, 1990, the Hiten Spacecraft was Japan’s first lunar probe, the first robotic lunar probe since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 in 1976, and the first lunar probe launched by a country other than the Soviet Union or the United States. It was also the first deep space probe which performed an aerobraking maneuver (flying the vehicle through the atmosphere to slow down it). On March 30, 1991, after the ninth lunar swing-by and second aerobraking maneuver, the primary mission of Hiten was concluded.

Sources

SELENE on Wikipedia
Hiten spacecraft on Wikipedia
“The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” on Wikipedia
Shackleton crater on Wikipedia

M. Özgür Nevres

I am a software developer, a former road racing cyclist, and a science enthusiast. Also an animal lover! I write about the planet Earth and science on this website, ourplnt.com. You can check out my social media profiles by clicking on their icons.

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