Moon Hoax or Not?

The (alleged) Moon hoaxes just keep coming. This week, the mainstream media followed the story about conspiracy-whispers surrounding the Chinese Moon probe Chang’e 1. A number of Internet users asked whether China had simply copied an old NASA image to use for their ‘first images’ from the Moon. Further questions were also asked about a particular difference between the NASA and China images – a ‘new’ crater.

The question of whether the images are different appears to have been answered however by Emily Lakdawalla at the website of The Planetary Society:

The two images cover the same areas, but they are evidently not the same image. The biggest difference arises from a different lighting angle between the two: the Clementine image is lit from the top (north), while the Chang’e image is lit from the northwest.

After noting this, Lakdawalla became excited by the ‘extra crater’ found in the Chinese image – but soon realised that it was simply due to a bad photo editing job:

Look at the Clementine image of that crater. You’ll see that the crater has another tiny crater on its rim at roughly the 9 o’clock position. Looking at the Chang’e 1 image, you can see that the “new” feature is, in fact, that tiny crater — the Chang’e 1 image has a seam running diagonally through that crater, and the left side of the image has been offset downward along the seam…I fixed the seam, sliding the left side of the image up along the diagonal until it matched the right side. The apparent “new feature” is gone, and it now looks pretty much like the Clementine image of the same area.

For more comment and details, you can also check out Alan Boyle’s entry on this ‘Lunar sleuthing’ at MSNBC’s Cosmic Log.