The "Picture of the Century"
Lunar Orbiter II (1966)

LO2-H162-3a Medium-Res
(1.6 MB JPEG)
LO2-H162-3a Full-Res (9.8 MB JPEG)

"On first seeing this oblique view of the crater Copernicus," declared Oran W. Nicks, Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Space Science and Applications, NASA, "I was awed by the sudden realization that this prominent lunar feature I have often viewed by telescope is a landscape of real mountains and valleys, obviously fashioned by tremendous forces of nature. It is no wonder that some writers immediately classified it as the 'Picture of the Year'! [Some, with understandable enthusiasm, even hailed it as the 'Picture of the Century.']

"Lunar Orbiter II recorded this image at 7:05 p.m. EST on November 24, 1966, from 28.4 miles above the Moon's surface, and about 150 miles due south of Copernicus. The clarity of the view is attributable to the absence of atmosphere. A photograph from similar altitudes of distant features on Earth would never be as sharp, because of haze.

"Copernicus is about 60 miles across and 2 miles deep: 3000-foot cliffs, apparently landslide scarps, can be seen. Peaks near the center of the crater form a small mountain range, about 1500-2000 feet high and 10 miles long.

"The Lunar Orbiter photography was accomplished with two cameras," Nicks explained, "one having a 3-inch focal length and the other a 24-inch focal length. These cameras were boresighted, so that each high-resolution photo was always contained in a moderate-resolution frame. Lunar Orbiter cameras were relatively conventional film cameras that combined a Bimat chemical development process with an electronic scanning readout for transmission by radio to Earth. The film images provided a very effective method of storing information for transmission bit by bit, at a modest rate."


"The telescopic view of Copernicus shown above is one of the finest photographs ever taken of this region from the Earth, and shows features as small as 2500 feet across," said William E. Brunk, Planetary Astronomy Chief, Lunar and Planetary Programs Directorate, NASA. "It is not possible to photograph smaller features because of the turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere.

"The crater Copernicus, a prominent feature on the lunar landscape, is believed to have resulted from an impact of a second body with the Moon," Brunk continued. "The 'keyhole'-shaped crater, Fauth, is seen at the bottom of the photograph; the Carpathian Mountains at the top. Characteristics of the landscape are clearly shown by the shadows produced by the rising Sun, whose elevation was approximately 10 degrees above the horizon. Numerous mounds are visible on the floor of Copernicus, in addition to the central peaks."

Source: Orbiter II Takes the "Picture of the Year"

Acknowledgement and special thanks to Lunar Photographic Studies Principal Investigator Dr. L.J. Kosofsky, NASA, and the National Space Science Data Center for providing these images.
The image at the top of this page was cropped from a portion of the exclusive (not available on any public NASA web site) full size 300 DPI (9854 x 19752 pixels) scan below I obtained from NASA of the top half of the original high-resolution camera image.
UPDATE: Thanks to the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) at NASA Ames Research Center, the image below has been digitally restored and is no longer the highest resolution scan available on the web.
Newly Restored "Picture of the Century": Lunar Orbiter 2's View of Copernicus
LOIRP Releases Enhanced Restored Version of the "Image of the Century" Plus Additional Subframes of Crater Copernicus
LO2-H162-32 Medium-Res
(2.9 MB JPEG)
LO2-H162-32 Full-Res (29.0 MB JPEG)

Location & Time Information
Date/Time (UT): 1966-11-24 T 00:05:43
Distance/Range (km): 130
Central Latitude/Longitude (deg): +05.48/340.00

Imaging Information
Instrument Field of View (deg): 20.4 x 5.16
Illumination Incidence Angle (deg): 65.35
Phase Angle (deg): 80.91
Surface Emission Angle (deg): 73.90

Detailed Information on Lunar Orbiters and Images

Lunar Orbiter II Exposure 162
Additional Scans and Information

As noted above the Lunar Orbiter's camera had two lenses, a medium-resolution 80 mm wide-angle and a high-resolution 610 mm telephoto, which gave the Lunar Orbiter the ability to take two pictures simultaneously on the same film. The image below left (with the area covered by the 610 mm lens outlined in white) is a fairly high-resolution scan of the entire medium-resolution frame and the image below center shows the entire high-resolution frame for reference. Because of the high-resolution frame's large size the practice was to assemble high-resolution frames into three sections. The three images below right are high-resolution scans of each of these sections.

UPDATE: The LPI now has some additional high-resolution scans of this frame available.
Lunar Orbiter Photo Gallery Frame 2162

Medium-Resolution Frame
(80 mm Camera)

(8.1 MB GIF)
High-Resolution Frame
(610 mm Camera)


(5.7 MB GIF)

(10..0 MB GIF)

(9.9 MB GIF)
Spacecraft Film Format

Source: Introduction
Digital Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Moon
Lunar and Planetary Institute

Photographic Data Acquisition Steps

DESTINATION MOON: A History of the Lunar Orbiter Program
NASA TM X-3487

Previous "Picture of the Century"


The abnve picture of Earth, the first ever from deep space, taken earlier in 1966 by Lunar Orbiter I, as well as the famous Apollo 8 color picture taken in 1968 of Earth rising beyond the moon's horizon, have also been labeled the "Picture of the Century"

UPDATE: Thanks to the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) at NASA Ames Research Center, the image above has been newly restored in high-resolution.
Newly Restored Lunar Orbiter Image of Earth and Moon / lunar

Copyright 2006-2010 Thomas G. Duffey. All rights reserved.