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.
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.
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.
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.