See the moon in epic detail in stunning images taken by South Korea's lunar orbiter (photos)

a series of ridges on the lunar surface
(Image credit: KARI)

South Korea's first lunar orbiter is quietly taking breathtaking images of our celestial neighbor.

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), also known as Danuri, arrived in low lunar orbit in mid-December and has already returned a series of impressive images.

The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) has since provided updates on its webpages which contain photos of striking lunar geological features. 

Related: Danuri: Facts about the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO)

A KARI release published in April includes a view of Tsiolkovskiy crater on the far side, which was named for the scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky who formulated the rocket equation. The image focuses on the crater's towering, prominent central peak, which rises over 10,500 feet (3200 meters) above the crater floor.

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Another image details the likewise eye-catching Vallis Schrödinger, a long valley cutting across the lunar surface.

The moon's Vallis Schrödinger. (Image credit: KARI)

Another image provides a view of Wichmann crater, named for Moritz Ludwig George Wichmann, a 19th-century German astronomer.

The moon's Wichmann crater. (Image credit: KARI)

The images were taken by Danuri's Lunar Terrain Imager (LUTI), one of several payloads on the orbiter. It also carries NASA's ShadowCam, which has been optimized to be sensitive to light reflected off lunar features to allow it to peer into otherwise shadowed craters.

Danuri's primary mission is for one year, during which it will take numerous images and measurements of the lunar surface. The data could aid future robotic landing missions on the moon, according to NASA, a partner in the KPLO mission.

The United States and South Korea are strengthening their ties when it comes to space. In a visit to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in May, Republic of Korea (ROK) President Yoon Suk Yeol and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris vowed further cooperation in space including efforts to monitor climate change using satellites.

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.

  • DrRaviSharma
    This camera from South Korean Orbiter Provides an excellent opportunity during South Pole Images surrounding coordinates Lat Lon Southpole -70.87906,24.26050.This would provide other illumination angles etc. THIS WOULD CONFIRM OR DENY VIKRAM LANDER INTACT THAT NEITHER ISRO NOR NASA LRO Images are able to confirm either due to location and pixel and sunlight conflicts.
    This low angle light dark contrast is another best opportunity to prove that Chandrayaan 2 was successful despite loss of Communication before landing.
    It looks like very similar thing happened on last Month's Japan Lunar Lnder failure.

    Kindly request South Korea Orbiter team to look for Vikram Lander.
    Also see my expert voice in at JAN 2020 SPACE.COM
    A Space Scientist Proposes Future Lander Missions for ISROThanks.
    (Dr. Ravi Sharma, Ph.D. USA)
    NASA Apollo Achievement Award
    Chair, Ontology Summit 2022
    Particle and Space Physics
    Senior Enterprise Architect