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Space

Mapping Planets and Moons In 3D With Stereophotoclinometry 23

subcomdtaco writes with this snippet from a story in the NYTimes: "Dr. [Robert] Gaskell, with software he developed over a quarter-century of trial and error, can process hundreds of images in a few hours, slap them atop one another electronically like coats of paint and produce a topographical map so detailed that you often need a pair of 3-D glasses to appreciate what he has done. At 63, Dr. Gaskell has become the Captain Cook of space. Dr. Gaskell calls what he does 'stereophotoclinometry.' [PDF] Ideally he needs at least three images of the target landscape, usually taken by an orbiting spacecraft or a probe on a flyby to another destination. Only in rare cases can telescope images provide enough detail. The sun angle must be different for each exposure so each image shows different shadows. By comparing the shadows, the software calculates slopes, which yield the altitudes of target features. The computer solves the equation in three dimensions, producing a patchlike topographical maplet."

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