Most people are familiar with the Apollo images of the Moon, showing astronauts at work and play on the lunar surface. But those photos often don’t entirely do justice to the Moon’s stark beauty, and some of the most amazing images of Earth’s companion come not from the surface, but above. Perhaps no spacecraft has better captured this than one launched by Japan nearly a decade ago.
Beginning in October, 2007, Japan’s Kaguya spacecraft spent the better part of two years in a polar orbit around the Moon, including passes from as close as 100km. As part of its payload, the spacecraft carried two 2.2 megapixel CCD HDTV color cameras, one a telephoto and one a wide-angle. These cameras returned the first high-definition video of the Moon back to Earth.
The Japanese space agency, JAXA, has previously released some of these photos into the public domain. But now the agency has released the entire dataset, including more than 450 images, the Planetary Society has reported. The newly available images include a number with lens flare, which adds a dynamic touch to the lunar surface.
So maybe you’ve never seen them before. Or perhaps you’ve seen some of the more iconic Earth rise images taken by Kaguya. Either way, the Moon can now be seen in its greater glory, as we’ve assembled some of the best photos in the gallery above, with some basic location information. The full catalog can be found here.
Listing image by JAXA / NHK