Extracting accurate and precise topography from LROC narrow angle camera stereo observations

M. R. Henriksen, M. R. Manheim, K. N. Burns, P. Seymour, E. J. Speyerer, A. Deran, A. K. Boyd, E. Howington-Kraus, M. R. Rosiek, B. A. Archinal, Mark Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) includes two identical Narrow Angle Cameras (NAC) that each provide 0.5 to 2.0 m scale images of the lunar surface. Although not designed as a stereo system, LROC can acquire NAC stereo observations over two or more orbits using at least one off-nadir slew. Digital terrain models (DTMs) are generated from sets of stereo images and registered to profiles from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) to improve absolute accuracy. With current processing methods, DTMs have absolute accuracies better than the uncertainties of the LOLA profiles and relative vertical and horizontal precisions less than the pixel scale of the DTMs (2–5 m). We computed slope statistics from 81 highland and 31 mare DTMs across a range of baselines. For a baseline of 15 m the highland mean slope parameters are: median = 9.1°, mean = 11.0°, standard deviation = 7.0°. For the mare the mean slope parameters are: median = 3.5°, mean = 4.9°, standard deviation = 4.5°. The slope values for the highland terrain are steeper than previously reported, likely due to a bias in targeting of the NAC DTMs toward higher relief features in the highland terrain. Overlapping DTMs of single stereo sets were also combined to form larger area DTM mosaics that enable detailed characterization of large geomorphic features. From one DTM mosaic we mapped a large viscous flow related to the Orientale basin ejecta and estimated its thickness and volume to exceed 300 m and 500 km3, respectively. Despite its ∼3.8 billion year age the flow still exhibits unconfined margin slopes above 30°, in some cases exceeding the angle of repose, consistent with deposition of material rich in impact melt. We show that the NAC stereo pairs and derived DTMs represent an invaluable tool for science and exploration purposes. At this date about 2% of the lunar surface is imaged in high-resolution stereo, and continued acquisition of stereo observations will serve to strengthen our knowledge of the Moon and geologic processes that occur across all of the terrestrial planets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-137
Number of pages16
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Data reduction techniques
  • Image processing
  • Moon surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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