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.
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.
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.