NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio has created this stunning, high-resolution portrait of the Moon's south pole by combining, for the first time, gravity data from the GRAIL mission with topographic imagery taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The Lunar Surface As You've Never Seen It Before

As NASA explains:

If the Moon were a perfectly smooth sphere of uniform density, the gravity map would be a single, featureless color, indicating that the force of gravity at a given elevation was the same everywhere. But like other rocky bodies in the solar system, including Earth, the Moon has both a bumpy surface and a lumpy interior. Spacecraft in orbit around the Moon experience slight variations in gravity caused by both of these irregularities.

This image depicts deviations from the mean gravity that a "cueball Moon" would have. Areas colored red correspond to mass excesses, while blue represents mass deficits.

The view shown here extends from the south pole of the Moon up to 50°S and reveals the gravity for that region in even finer detail than the global gravity maps published previously. You can see the correlation between the gravity map and topographic features such as peaks and craters, as well as the mass concentration lying beneath the large Schrödinger basin in the center of the frame.

[Source: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio]