Researchers have discovered a method for making high-resolution maps of planetary surfaces like the moon's by combining available imagery and topography data.
Mapping the complex and diverse surface of a world like the moon in detailed resolution is challenging because laser altimeters, which measure changes in altitudes, operate at much lower resolution than cameras. And although photographs offer a sense of surface features, it's difficult to translate images into specific heights and depths.
However, a new method combines topographic data with degrees of shading of sunlight present in optical images to provide much more accurate assessments of landforms and structures. The development could help both astronauts and robotic explorers in the future.
The new method was developed by Iris Fernandes, a now former Ph.D. student at the Niels Bohr Institute of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
Different missions deliver very different data resolutions, so combining different sources of data in different resolutions presents a huge mathematical problem. What Fernandes and her then-supervisor, geophysicist Klaus Mosegaard, did differently was to focus on the mathematics of the issue, narrowing down the challenge to determine whether an equation could solve the problem.