What is this strange shape photographed near the Moon?

Published by Adrien - Wednesday, April 17, 2024 - Other Languages: FR, DE, ES, PT
Source: NASA

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has recently captured images of an object looking strikingly like a surfboard, passing close to the Moon.

The image of the "surfboard" orbiting around the Moon.
Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

This object is none other than Danuri, the South Korean lunar orbiter. The images taken between March 5 and 6 by the LRO reveal Danuri speeding at a relative velocity of about 7,200 mph (11,500 km/h) compared to the LRO. This significant speed difference created a visual effect where Danuri appears stretched, taking on an elongated shape similar to a surfboard.

In reality, Danuri looks nothing like this shape. It is a cubic-shaped spacecraft, equipped with two solar panels on each side. The LRO, fitted with a very short exposure camera of only 0.338 milliseconds, struggled to capture this fast-moving event. However, the images obtained are clear enough to distinguish Danuri's true shape.

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, named Danuri.
Image Credit: Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI)

Paul Byrne, an associate professor of planetary science at Washington University in St. Louis, shared some of these images on X (formerly Twitter), clarifying that the elongated image is merely a visual effect due to the high relative speed of the two orbiters.
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