Earthrise, Earthset

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Nov. 13 2007 10:55 PM

Earthrise, Earthset

The Japanese Kaguya Moon probe just took a stunning set of images of the Earth over the limb of the Moon. Drink this in:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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Wow. This HD picture shows the Earth appearing to rise as the satellite orbits the Moon (from the surface, the Earth never really rises except under very limited circumstances having to do with its synchronous rotation and libration).

But then it shot a series of pictures of the Earth setting:

Wow again!

But take a good look at the images. See how dark the Moon looks? That's real: the Moon is, on average, about 1/2 to 1/4 as reflective as the Earth is, so the Earth looks bright while the Moon looks dark. For an even more striking example of this, check out the lunar dust on Buzz Aldrin's knees in the famous Man on the Moon picture. The surface looks bright, but the dust is charcoal gray.

These are amazing pictures, and I'm really looking forward to more! There are a half dozen or so spots on the Moon in particular I'd love to see in hi-res. When more spectacular ones like these come out, I'll be sure to post 'em.