For years, solar system and exploration have brought excitement and inspiration to people of all ages. This is especially true now, with new opportunities for students and citizen scientists to directly participate in expanding our knowledge of the solar system. Amateur astronomers and students with wide ranges of equipment and expertise are making valuable contributions to our growing understanding of our nearest celestial neighbor. Learn how you can become part of the adventure!

Moon Tours

Moon Tours is a free app from NASA that makes it easy to conduct detailed explorations of the lunar surface using a mobile device. Moon Tours is the mobile version of the NASA’s Lunar Mapping and Modeling Portal (LMMP). LMMP ( is the repository for over 600+ geospatial lunar data products and imagery from historical and current lunar missions for use by scientists, mission planners, students, and the public. Moon Tours allows users to view all the publicly available lunar data from the LMMP and perform many of the functions available on the web browser version of the portal from their mobile devices. Available data products include scientifically referenced digital elevation maps (DEMs), slope maps, rock and hazard maps, gravity maps, mineralogy maps, and imagery ranging from the Apollo missions to the latest data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Whether you are a scientist, student, or just have an interest in our Moon, Moon Tours will show you lunar topography as you have never seen it before.

Moon Tours is currently available for free download for iPhone and iPad from An Android version is currently in development and will be available shortly.

Moon Zoo

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is currently in orbit around the Moon, returning images of the lunar surface in unprecedented detail. Through Moon Zoo, you can learn how to interpret these images, have these images delivered to your computer, and become part of the team building a new understanding of the lunar surface. SSERVI is funding a MoonZoo postdoc with support of the Maryland Space Grant Consortium.

NASA Lunar Mapping and Modeling Project

This program has created an online set of capabilities and tools that will allow anyone with an Internet connection to search through, view, and analyze a vast number of lunar images and other digital products. The project website is a one-stop location for finding, retrieving, and analyzing data about the Moon, including the most recent lunar surface imagery, altimetry, temperature, lighting and other data.

LADEE Mission Science

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission launched to the Moon in 2013. This robotic spacecraft orbited the Moon and dropped down to altitudes low enough to sample the structure and composition of the Moon’s tenuous atmosphere. Meteoroid impacts on the lunar surface are thought to be among the major sources of the lunar atmosphere as well as dust lofted into the Moon’s atmosphere. Ground-based observations conducted here on Earth can provide valuable data that can be correlated with the information returned from LADEE’s instruments, and give us a better understanding of the role of meteoroid impacts as a source for the lunar atmosphere and lofted dust. Amateur astronomers and interested members of the public have excellent opportunities to participate in the science of the LADEE mission and make valuable observation through existing lunar citizen science programs.

Meteoroid Impact Observation Program

Telescopes with apertures from 8 to 14 inches are ideal to use for detecting and recording the flashes from meteoroid impacts on the lunar surface. Telescopes of this size are common among schools and amateur astronomers. Impact flashes recorded with an appropriate video camera with an accurate time stamp are of greatest scientific value. During the LADEE mission, the mission science team included data from observers watching for and recording lunar meteoroid impacts to correlate those events with changes LADEE’s instruments detected in the structure and composition of the lunar atmosphere. LADEE partnered with the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers Lunar Meteoritic Impact Search program in this effort. A great deal of additional information is also available from NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office including their FAQ, Minimum System Requirements, and free software to help detect impact flashes captured in your video files. Brian Cudnik’s book “Lunar Meteoroid Impacts and How to Observe Them” contains a wealth of information that will be of value to observers participating in this program.

Meteor Counting

People who do not have access to telescopes like those required for the Meteoroid Impact Observation Program can still make observations that could be of significant value to missions like LADEE. This is because the majority of impactors on the lunar surface are very small, too small to create flashes visible from the Earth. However, because the Earth and Moon travel together through space, they encounter streams of cosmic debris together. When an object even as small as a grain of sand enters the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, it can become quite evident as a meteor lighting up the night sky. By observing and recording rates of meteors visible here on Earth, we can make inferences as to what is happening on the Moon’s surface in terms of small impacts. One beautiful thing about meteor counting is that excellent observations can be made with the unaided eye. There are essentially no equipment requirements; no telescopes or binoculars are needed, though a reclining lawn chair makes counting a lot more comfortable! During the LADEE mission, the mission science team data from people who made and submitted meteor counts so that they could compare that data to what LADEE’s instruments recorded. The International Meteor Organization is an excellent source of information on how to observe meteors and submit meteor counts. As is the case for almost everything today, there’s even an app for that. Meteor Counter is a free app developed by NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. This allows you to use your iPhone or Android phone to easily record your meteor count observations and send your data directly to NASA. Meteor Counter is a free download from the App Store and Google Play. Robert Lunsford’s book “Meteors and How to Observe Them” contains a wealth of information that will be of value to observers.

SSERVI Science Teams

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Did you know?

The Apollo missions brought back 842 pounds of lunar samples to analyze in labs on Earth.

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