Today is (informally) lidar day! You might not have the day off work, your kids might not bring home art projects featuring lidar, and it’s probably not possible to have a cake emblazoned with a point cloud, but lidar is taking center stage in science throughout the world and we want to celebrate!
Wave goodbye to the moon—lidar tells us it’s receding by inches per year.
But what is it? Lidar—Light Detection and Ranging, or a combination of ‘laser’ and ‘radar’—has been around since the 1960’s when folks first used lasers to measure the distance between objects. During the Apollo mission, in addition to collecting great moon rocks for geologists to study, the astronauts also installed a reflector that scientists use with lidar to measure how quickly the moon is moving away from the earth (~3.8 cm/yr it turns out, slowing our orbit about 2 seconds per century).
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