Using new terrain maps obtained by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Scientific Visualisation Studio at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. has created the most realistic simulation of all the moon phases through an entire year—2013. It’s mesmerising.
This visualization shows the phase and libration of the Moon throughout the year 2013, at hourly intervals. Each frame represents one hour. In addition, this version of the visualization shows additional relevant information, including the Moon’s orbit position, subsolar and subearth points, distance from the Earth, and more.
The animation shows at hourly intervals, the geocentric phase, libration, position angle of the Moon’s axis, and apparent diameter of the Moon throughout the year 2013. Topographic measurements by the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter make it possible to simulate shadows on the Moon’s surface with unprecedented accuracy and detail.
According to Ernie Wright, the author of the video, it’s the most realistic simulation thanks to the topographic maps: “I use those maps to make the Moon sphere bumpy in all the right places. That allows the rendering software to realistically simulate all the shadows and the ragged terminator (the dividing line between day and night).” [NASA]