NASA Moon Imaging Channels Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

And they want you to vote on your favorite moon art.

For the past five years, we’ve had a satellite in orbit around our moon, scouting the surface through radiation, infrared, ultraviolet, neutrons, radar, and good old-fashioned sunlight. It’s all in service of a map: NASA is mapping out the most compelling scientific possibilities to explore further.


Along the way, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has created some veritable masterpieces. You can vote on your favorite of five prints over at NASA’s page, The Moon as Art.

My personal favorite is Starry Night, worthy of a robotic Van Gogh. It’s actually the second time that NASA has channeled the post-Impressionist painter.

It’s pretty, but what are we actually looking at? From NASA:

The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) sends laser pulses down to the surface of the Moon from the orbiting spacecraft. These pulses bounce off of the Moon and return to LRO, providing scientists with measurements of the distance from the spacecraft to the lunar surface. As LRO orbits the Moon, LOLA measures the shape of the lunar surface, which includes information about the Moon’s surface elevations and slopes…

Tycho Central Peak

…This image shows the slopes found near the south pole of the Moon, poleward of 75 degrees South. The bright red to white areas have the highest slopes (25 degrees or more) while the dark blue to purple areas have the lowest slopes (5 degrees or less). The steepest slopes are found in impact crater rims, which appear as brightly colored circular features throughout the image.

Really? Because I see humankind’s inner turmoil spoiling the quiet tranquility of the night sky. But that’s just me.

See more here.


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach