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The Moon in 4k resolution · 348 HN points · 1 HN comments
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In the fall of 2011, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission released its original Tour of the Moon, a five-minute animation that takes the viewer on a virtual tour of our nearest neighbor in space. Six years later, the tour has been recreated in eye-popping 4K resolution, using the same camera path and drawing from the vastly expanded data trove collected by LRO in the intervening years.

The tour visits a number of interesting sites chosen to illustrate a variety of lunar terrain features. Some are on the near side and are familiar to both professional and amateur observers on Earth, while others can only be seen clearly from space. Some are large and old (Orientale, South Pole-Aitken), others are smaller and younger (Tycho, Aristarchus). Constantly shadowed areas near the poles are hard to photograph but easier to measure with altimetry, while several of the Apollo landing sites, all relatively near the equator, have been imaged at resolutions as high as 25 centimeters (10 inches) per pixel.

The new tour highlights the mineral composition of the Aristarchus plateau, evidence for surface water ice in certain spots near the south pole, and the mapping of gravity in and around the Orientale basin.
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Apr 12, 2018 · 348 points, 68 comments · submitted by wglb
How did they estimate the age of the crater? Did they bring some moon rock back and test it? Or infer it using other data?
iirc, you can use crater density calibrated from known ground-truth measurements (
I believe it's mostly driven by analyzing the craters within craters. The more craters within, the more likely it is to be older. That can be calibrated against data from samples brought back from known sites on the moon.
Compared to Earth, it's amazing how much three dimensional detail is visible from orbit. Are those surface details up to scale, or are they scaled up for the video?
Well, the details are quite pronounced and 3D also when viewed from Earth through even a smallish (~100 mm) telescope (preferably near the lunar terminator, where the Sun angle is small).

Larger apertures are even better, e.g.:

(from a 11" telescope).

This is also why the video of the Tesla roadster in space seemed so unnatural: there is no distortion of light due to the lack of air.
There's no atmosphere, that's why.
I guess its from the high contrast qualities of the moon, nearly black and white.
My guess is that surface craters and details look more pronounced on the Moon than the Earth due to the fact that the craters are in fact larger relative to the overall size of the planetary body they are on. Our brain is going to automatically compare the peaks and valleys of whatever feature we are looking relative to the body it is on. And when that body is much larger, the details appear less pronounced, when in reality they are the same size as the one on their smaller-body counterparts. The eye simply has more to take in, and thus downplays the contrast caused by the elevation changes. I hope that makes sense.
Is it just me, or is there some jankiness/stuttering in the movements/pans throughout the video?

Namely in this 4k version hosted directly at NASA:

I'm not sure it makes any sense to talk about a video being in 4K resolution without talking about the resolution of the data that went into the production of the video. I could make a 4K video of the moon right now (or when it gets dark) by sticking my iPhone out of my window. Presumably it's the source data that is high resolution in this video, not just the video itself?
Essentially they have much better resolution source material and they scaled that into a 4K signal which allows for a viewing experience that is "better" than having it be scaled to 1080P.

As for showing it on the web? Well generally unless you have a 4K monitor you won't see it at the full video resolution. It does look pretty crisp and stunning at 4K.

> Well generally unless you have a 4K monitor

Ah this is a common misconception actually! I think that the chroma resolution in video is often less than the pixel resolution, so a pixel resolution higher than your screen resolution can still be useful to get the extra colour data.

I have noticed this with quite many video players. Downscaling from 4k to fullscreen on my not-so-4k monitor seems to provide better details than the native 1080. On YouTube for example. Do you know if this is in effect for YouTube videos?
I think it applies to almost all conventional video compression algorithms.

Big factor here is the bitrate of the video; on practically all streaming platforms 1080p video is very heavily compressed and while speculating, on sites like YT there is also encoding speed vs visual quality optimization going on.

With equal bitrates and high-quality encoders the difference should be smaller, or even turn towards preferring 1080p depending on the bitrate.

True, although for this particular video I was more impressed by the high frequency edges of the mostly monochromatic moon surface. The edges of craters are very sharp on a 4K screen.
I feel like I'm missing something here. A display that has enough pixels to show the pixel resolution of the source should be able to resolve all the (subsampled) chroma information as well, should it not? (Er, at least as long as the subsampling is done at an integer divisor of the original!)

Anyway, a high-resolution source could look better than a low-resolution source when displayed on a display with the same resolution as the low-resolution source for a number of reasons, perhaps the most obvious being that the high-resolution source might be of higher bandwidth.

> I feel like I'm missing something here.

If you have a 2k screen, you may think there's no point watching a 4k video instead of a 2k video. Well there is even if you ignore bitrate - because the 4k video when resized to 2k will contain more colour information than the 2k video shown at 2k.

> A display that has enough pixels to show the pixel resolution of the source should be able to resolve all the (subsampled) chroma information as well, should it not?

Yes, but the point is that a display that does not have enough pixels to show the resolution of the source, will be able to show colour per-pixel in the 4k video, rather than colour per-every-other-pixel as it would in the 2k video.

(Chroma subsampling is not this simple in practice.)

Oh, I see now. Thanks!
You can expect that the NASA did true 4K without blur and at a good zoom level...
You could make a 4K image with your iPhone, but it will not nearly be anything like what this video shows. Please do look at the video. I thought it was pretty amazing the level of detail available and I don't even have a proper 4K screen (2560x1600), it is much better than any other video that attempted to do something like this and it is more about the LRO mission and the data it generated than about the output resolution of the video, with the note that generating output at a higher resolution would have been pointless so they did the best they could.
I agree. Also, instead of sharing a scripted video of moon, which we already have many, I would be more interested in high resolution models that I can explore as I want.
One starting point would be, go to "Layers" (lower right), hit "Added layer" tab, add "Freeair Gravity, colorized" (type Gravity into the dialog box and choose that one from the several alternatives), change the alpha from 100% to about 50%, and browse as you like.

I believe this should get you to Mare Orientale:

This is still a browser, but it shows the gravity field similar to the video (not as good), and it's closer to something a scientist might use.

Even if you would film it in 480p, I could re-encode it in 4k... Blu-rays used to do this, not sure if they still do (I don't get physical media anymore)...

In this case, the zoom might matter more then anything else...

It makes perfect sense to me, I read it as "Very high quality video of the moon". Just like when I can download a movie in SD or HD I know which one will almost surely look nicer even though it's possible the HD version is the same content with black bars around the sides.
> It makes perfect sense to me, I read it as "Very high quality video of the moon"

But my point is I could also film a 4K video of the moon out of my window using an iPhone, and it wouldn't actually be very high quality. Being 4K doesn't actually tell you anything about the quality of the content whatsoever.

Nor does HD, but that is also a common and useful way to describe high definition content.
Your phone has a wide FOV which would put the moon as a small circle, probably overexposed.
That's the GPs point - the term '4K' doesn't really indicate quality
It doesn’t denote quality but quality is the connotation.
In my interpretation, it indicates that the picture contains at least 4000 pixels belonging to the moon.
Pedantically this could be a "0.085k" image then.
Any reasonable reader will assume that the Moon has to fill a significant portion of the frame and be well exposed as well as sharp for this headline to be meaningful.

I agree it’s not precise and I also agree it’s not a generally very useful way to talk about resolution, but I think the authors were looking for a way to convey high resolution and quality while using terms anyone might have heard and have a rough understanding of.

Given the zooming that takes places and the fact that the entire moon was mapped (not just the places shown in this video, except perhaps a handful of ultra hi-res pieces), it's clear that the resolution of the mapping far exceeded the resolution visible in the 4k video for all but the closest shots.
There were some high resolution photos taken of the moon a few years ago during a Chinese mission, worth taking a gander.
Do you have a link?
Chang'e 3 lander and Yutu rover camera data:


Is the color added in editing or was there color in the moon's surface?
I just want this, sans text, as my an Apple TV screensaver.
I literally just downloaded this to use as a macOS screensaver using "SaveHollywood".
Pointing out a lava tube would have been nice.
This is awesome. I wonder what was the format of source and if it could be made available as it would be a nice testcase for AV1.
Man, NASA needs to hire some design and marketing people. They have a talent for making amazing outer space content boring.
Still waiting for street view...
Street is the key word.
Maybe we can get a "craterside" view
LOL... that's actually just logical. Craters are the geo features that have the names, well also seas but craters are practical to show a view from the center.
shpx In particular, I like

There's also a 360 photo from the 2014 Chinese lunar mission

Not street view, but google has surface maps for some solar system objects

Direct link instead of aggregator website:
Or the NASA site:

Changed to that from Thanks!
You bet.
Morgan Freeman should narrate these for free
Pure CGI
Maybe it's just me, but I really wish they would not include music in these presentations. It injects a loaded element in the experience. As well, I may want to listen to my own audio. I ended up turning off audio, and fortunately there are captions, but that's not always an option. People really have been programmed to have expectations around media, which in some cases prevents inclusion of more subtle and actual elements, and the computer's capabilities to enable different preferences have not been realized.
I watched this first without any audio and was thinking your comment was in reference to some quiet piano playing in the background or something simple so I didn't think it was going to be that big of a deal but you were right - this really took away a lot from it and quite disappointing.
I agree, the music was a little off-putting. They could have at least gone with a less in-your-face piece.
Generally I don't mind a subdued audio track on a documentary, but this was especially egregious.
And possibly use a CDN... the video is so slow at the moment.
The entire world of media is so frustratingly rotten - from YouTube to TV, advertisements to documentaries, movies and music - everything is so goddamn noisy.

An exception to this is - YouTube channel “Primitive Technology”. It’s beautiful, it’s successful and this is what content should be. Unadulterated. Why isn’t media like this anymore? There was a thread about Disney’s camera techonogy in the 50’s and it was so well produced (see my comment history). People spoke with clear enunciation and intent. The world has become a chaotic mess and the only thing I want to do is meditate and get the away from constant bombardment of my senses. I don’t want HDR. I want good content, I don’t care about the material qualities (although 4K moon video makes sense because resolution is the content in this case).

I think it's making or going to make a come back because people do appreciate the sounds of the environment.

For example this famous recent action sport movie / advert has just the sound design, no music:

It is sound design obviously, but it's interesting that they put that much energy into recreating the feeling of being there through the audio without music.

I feel there is a trend of these videos with just sound design or raw sound, rather than the usual epic music.

> Unadulterated.

Nothing ever is. Lighting, camera angle, framing (wide shot or close-up), color temperature, camera movement (handheld, dolly ), and focus are some of the things that influence how the viewer feels. Music is one the more overt elements, but nothing is unadulterated, even the sound mixing is an editorial choice - are the bird chirps audible underneath the hammering of the stone chisel?

I don’t think my intent was so literal as you portray it. Obviously you are right. I was meaning it as exemplified in PT videos, minimal cognitive load so it’s a pleasure to watch.
I've also heard there's no true Scotsman either...
I bet whoever said that had "no accent" too :-).
Well there is the "Dogme" school of film-making which effectively strives towards less adulterated stuff. Sure, the "official" Dogme95 "vows" might be bit flawed, but those are just one crystallization of the wider concept.
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