Planetary Video

Light and Shadow at the Moon's South Pole

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The Moon's north and south poles have high points that are almost always in sunlight, and low spots that are permanently dark. This NASA visualization starts on the side of the Moon we see from Earth—with the Apollo landing sites labeled—and moves down to the south pole, where a timelapse shows changing illumination conditions for an entire year. The large crater in the center, Shackleton crater, lies in permanent darkness, but its raised rims are nearly constantly illuminated. High-sunlight areas are good locations for human habitats because they stay warm and can draw near-continuous power from solar panels, while nearby permanently dark areas harbor water ice that could be mined for air, water, and rocket propellant. Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio