Emily LakdawallaDec 19, 2014

A new Chang'e 3 and Yutu image archive

I should be writing up all my notes from the American Geophysical Union meeting this week. Instead, I've spent the morning rummaging through a newly posted archive of Chang'e 3 and Yutu images from the surface of the Moon. Some of the images it contains are new; some are familiar; but almost all of them are higher quality than ones I've seen before. And it never gets old to see pictures of human-crafted robots on the surfaces of other worlds.

First, enjoy this five-image collage of a waxing Earth in the lunar sky, taken a year ago, from December 20 to 24, 2013. Just imagine! If you were on the surface with Chang'e 3, Earth would always be in pretty much same position in the lunar sky; it just hovers, slowly waxing and waning across the faster-moving patterns made by its rotation and swirling clouds. All the while that Earth waxes brighter and brighter, the Sun dips lower and lower, so by the time Earth gets to half-full, the Sun sets. Earth is your only source of illumination for the next 14 days, as it goes through full and wanes toward last quarter.

Here's the same sequence as an animation, because why not?

And now here is a sequence of images of rover and lander -- the best, sharpest versions of these photos I've yet seen. I've done my best to date them based upon the relative positions of rover and lander, comparing to Phil Stooke's route map.

Here they are on landing day:

These next two are cool because they were taken on different days with the rover in the same position -- you can really she the shifting shadows:

I'll never get tired of these.

What the rover saw...

Someone on unmannedspaceflight.com noticed that you can actually see the rover reflected in the lander in this one. Everyone loves selfies!

And finally, Yutu drove off.

There is much more in the image archive -- including lots of individual photos from Yutu during its driving, lots of television images shot during rover deployment, and many panoramas from both rover and lander -- so go check it out, or check out the unmannedspaceflight.com thread where people are processing them into more panoramas and 3D views!

According to reports in Chinese media, the Chang'e 3 lander is still operating; no word on the Yutu rover.

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