You’ve seen many a sunrise and moonrise, but unless you’re an astronaut, you’ve never seen an “earthrise” — a unique phenomenon that is only viewable from the Moon where the Earth appears to “rise” over the lunar horizon.
Luckily, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) witnesses twelve earthrises per day and is equipped with state-of-the-art cameras! The robotic spacecraft captured this stunning composite image:
NASA has released several iconic earthrise photographs over the years — most notably in 1966, 1968, and 1972 — but none compare to LRO’s latest capture, seen above. Pictured most prominently in the image are Liberia, the Sahara Desert, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of South America and the Moon’s Compton crater.
LRO was launched in 2009 and boasts not one but two powerful camera instruments. Its Narrow Angle Camera captures high resolution black and white images, while its Wide Angle Camera snaps lower resolution color images. Once these photos are recorded, NASA’s imaging team employs a complex series of post processing steps to combine them and produce high resolution photographs in both full color and detail.
In a NASA blog post, LROC investigator Mark Robinson briefly explained the mechanics of an “earthrise”:
“Viewed from the lunar surface, the Earth never rises or sets. 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. The Earth may not move across the ‘sky,’ but the view is not static. Future astronauts will see the continents rotate in and out of view and the ever-changing pattern of clouds…”
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