This week, NASA unveiled stunning photo of an earthrise as seen from the moon. The image was captured by the space agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) in October when the orbiter reached a perfect viewpoint along its orbit around the moon.
Noah Petro, head of the LRO project at the space agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center, described the photo as ‘simply stunning.’ He argued that the recent image resemble the ‘Blue Marble’ picture taken by the Apollo 17 crew members over four decades ago.
Both pictures feature the side of our planet with Africa in full view. In the latest composite image, we can also have a look at a large part of South America. Researchers explained that the large upper region of tan color on the African continent is the Sahara Desert followed to the right by the Saudi Arabia. To the left we can see both the Atlantic and Pacific.
In foreground, we can see the the moon’s crater Compton, which is located in the northern region of the dark side of the moon.
LRO mission debuted nearly seven years ago, and the orbiter helped scientists gain a deeper understanding of the moon’s geology. The robotic craft’s seven optical instruments have blessed scientists with thousands of high resolution photographs of the lunar surface over the years. The spacecraft ‘sees’ a dozen of earthrises on a daily basis, but it rarely takes a snapshot because it is too busy with the moon’s surface.
On various occasions, LRO beamed back pictures of the natural satellite’s atmosphere along with random images of the space while it calibrated its instruments. At times, Earth and other space objects happen to appear before the orbiter’s camera and thus other breath-taking images were acquired.
NASA researchers explained that the recent image was composed from separate photos taken by the orbiter on Oct 12, 2015, when the craft was at a distance of 83 miles above the moon’s surface.
Yet, taking a snapshot of both the moon and our planet was not easy. LRO’s optical instruments had to be rolled to the side by a certain angle, while the craft had to maintain its focus although it was traveling by more than one mile per second.
The image is made of data gathered by LRO’s two optical instruments: the Wide Angle Camera, which is not very accurate, and the Narrow Angle Camera, which has a high resolution but it takes only black and white pictures.
The resulting image had to be processed after compiling color information from the Wide Angle Camera and high-resolution specifics from the Narrow Angle Camera.
Nevertheless, Prof. Mark Robinson of Arizona State University explained that astronauts on the moon can never witness an earthrise because the satellite is tidally locked to our planet.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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