The July 2 Eclipse Viewed From The Moon

For cute! A full Earth hovers over the edge (limb) of the moon during the total solar eclipse with the moon’s shadow clearly visible as a dark spot on the globe. Photo by China’s Longjiang-2 orbiter. CNSA / Harbin Institute of Technology

I thought you’d enjoy seeing what this week’s total solar eclipse looked like from the moon. These photos were taken by the by the Chinese Longjiang-2 satellite, one of a pair launched to the moon in 2018. The first failed to enter orbit, but the second succeeded. Amateur radio operators back on Earth have been sending commands to the satellite to take pictures ever since.

Another view of Earth and the moon’s shadow. Since the moon has no atmosphere the Earth appears sharp and colorful right down to where it means the moon. CNSA / Harbin Institute of Technology

Longjiang-2 was developed by students at the Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) in China. It only weighs 104 pounds (47 kg) but is equipped with its own propulsion system that slowed it down to enter lunar orbit in May 2018. It carries a camera devised by the students that takes a pretty good picture, similar to what you’d get if you used a cellphone.

One last look at the Earth over the lunar limb. CNSA / Harbin Institute of Technology

The photos clearly show the moon’s shadow as a dark blotch on the blue ball of Earth during the July 2 total eclipse. Since I don’t have times when the photos were taken, it’s hard to gauge the shadow’s location on the globe. The resolution isn’t the best either. Do I see a hint of South America in the top photo, upper left?  Isn’t it amazing how colorful our planet is next to the limb of the gray moon? Solar eclipses on Earth occur during the new moon when the moon passes between us and the sun. Since the moon’s and Earth’s phases are complementary, when it’s new for us, the Earth is full as seen from the moon.

On July 31, Longjiang-2 will crash into the moon to end it mission after more than a year in lunar orbit. You might think it a waste of good hardware, but it’s a way to tidy up after a mission wraps up. You don’t want to leave things in lunar orbit where they might pose a problem for future spacecraft.

Regulus and the lunar crescent this evening the western sky. Stellarium

From Earth tonight you can see a thicker crescent moon than last night, and it will be in conjunction with the first magnitude star Regulus in Leo the Lion. Watch for the pair at dusk — they’ll be just 2° apart.