The spacecraft, currently in its extended science mission, has taken hundreds of stereo pairs of images to produce digital elevation models. Unfortunately, such maps require a lot of painstaking computer processing to make.
Generating these simpler 3D maps, on the other hand, “doesn’t require a lot of man-hours and computational time,” said Sarah Mattson from the University of Arizona, a member of the LRO team responsible for making the elevation models. Plus, the 3D images are fun. “I’m really excited to see more and more of them,” she added.
Humans owe their depth perception to the fact that their eyes are slightly offset from one another. Your right eye sees the world from one angle while your left another and your brain combines the two to create a three-dimensional view.
LRO uses its narrow-angle camera to make 3D photos by taking one image from orbit, rolling, and then taking a second, creating slightly offset pictures. The LRO photos have two orders of magnitude higher resolution than previous lunar images that used Apollo-era data. By combining these two images and using special 3D glasses, you can see lunar features pop out of a page.