Earth Rises From The Moon … Again!

This image, captured Feb. 1, 2014, shows the Earth from the moon-based perspective of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Who can get enough earthrises? I mean, look at how beautiful we are. NASA just released a photo and short video of our blue planet lifting off the limb of the moon on Feb. 1 this year. It was taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) which experiences 12 earthrises every day.

Only thing is, LRO is normally busy imaging the lunar surface; only rarely does the opportunity arise for it to focus its gaze up and beyond the lunar limb. On Feb. 1, the probe pitched forward while approaching the moon’s north pole allowing the wide angle camera to capture Earth rising above the 112-mile-wide (180 km) crater Rozhdestvenskiy crater.

This animation of LROC WAC observations shows the rising Earth from the moon’s limb. Multiple filters were used to make the photo including one for blue light. You can see how much brighter Earth looks because of its blue oceans in the final seconds before it leaves the frame. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Occasionally LRO points off into space to acquire observations of the lunar exosphere – a atmosphere so rarefied it contains mostly atoms from the solar wind – and perform instrument calibration measurements. During these slews sometimes the Earth (and other planets) pass through the camera’s field of view and dramatic images like this one can be taken. Otherwise it’s ‘nose to the grindstone’ with its eye focused on what’s below.

Unlike an ordinary camera, LRO’s wide angle camera builds up an image frame-by-frame using multiple filters. In the animation the gaps between each frame that create a ‘venetian blind’ effect are from actual gaps between the filters on the camera’s CCD chip. Combined, they form one continuous image.

Another earthrise taken on April 6, 2008 by the video camera aboard the Japanese Kaguya orbiter. Click to enlarge. Credit: JAXA/NHK

The color photo is a composite of six black and white (grayscale) frames of the moon, while the color view of the Earth required three exposures through filters of three different wavelengths that were combined to create a natural color view. This is just how we’d see if we could hitch a ride there.

Notice how much brighter the Earth is compared to the moon. The moon only appears brilliant at night because we see it against a dark sky. Perspectives like these always amaze. They show how fertile and purposeful Earth is in a cosmos that hardly notices.

11 Responses

  1. jesse

    Bob, just reading your credentials. You don’t give yourself enough credit. You’re far from an amateur astronomer.

    1. astrobob

      Hi Jesse,
      That’s kind of you to say, but since I’m not a professional, that’s my official rank. And you probably know this, but the root of ‘amateur’ is the word for love as in passion for a subject.

  2. caralex

    Bob, why is there such a difference in size between the LRO photo of Earth and Kaguya’s? Earth looks tiny in the LRO photo. I thought it should look about four times the size the moon does to us.

    1. astrobob

      The LRO photo was taken with a wide-angle lens. Not exactly sure what Kaguya’s was taken with but looks more telephoto to me. Also, it may resolution. The LRO pic is pretty low – Kaguya is high. I also cropped the Kaguya photo some. All of these will contribute to making the moon look smaller in the LRO photo. You’re right that the Earth is almost four times larger than the moon from Earth’s skies, but when you’re orbiting the moon, it’s HUGE in compared to Earth. You’re so much closer, that’s all. Standing on the moon would afford you a proper comparison between the Earth and moon since they both would be seen against the stars. The moon’s disk would cover 1/2 degree, the Earth’s nearly 2 degrees.

    1. astrobob

      Thanks for the update. I’ve been watching the monitors and see some activity but not much yet – at least not for the northern U.S. Do you see anything in Montana?

  3. Troy

    If it wasn’t beneath our feet the Earth would be the ultimate telescopic object. We have some of the weather of Jupiter, though surface features are still visible like on Mars. And as you pointed out we are beautiful.

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