NASA released a stunning image on Friday appearing to show Earth “rising” over the horizon of the moon.
The image was captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a robotic spacecraft that has been orbiting the moon since 2009. Usually, the LRO is used to take images of the moon’s surface, but earlier this year, the LRO’s camera was pointed away from the moon in order to observe the lunar atmosphere. While pointed in that direction, the Earth passed through the camera’s field of view.
The stunning picture is actually made up of a series of photos taken in quick succession in mid-October. The LRO has a narrow-angle camera that takes high-resolution images, but in black and white, and a wide-angle camera that takes low-resolution images, but in color. That means that getting a high-resolution image in full color was more complicated than just snapping a photo, and involved some “special processing,” a NASA news release stated.
Though the “earth rise” evokes the sunrise that we’re all familiar with here on Earth, you’d never see this type of image if you were actually standing on the moon (as opposed to orbiting around the moon, like the LRO).
“Viewed from the lunar surface, the Earth never rises or sets,” Arizona State University’s Mark Robinson said in the NASA release. “Since the moon is tidally locked, Earth is always in the same spot above the horizon, varying only a small amount with the slight wobble of the moon.”
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