Kaguya Captures Eclipse — From the Moon

by Nancy Atkinson on February 19, 2009

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Penumbral Lunar Eclipse as seen from the Moon.  Credit: JAXA

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse as seen from the Moon. Credit: JAXA


Here’s something you don’t see everyday. In fact, this is the first time this has ever been seen. On Feb. 10 Japan’s Kaguya spacecraft in orbit around the moon successfully took an image of a penumbral lunar eclipse. That’s the Earth passing in front of the sun, as seen from the Moon. From the Moon! The image was taken just at the moment when the Earth covered up most of the sun, creating a diamond ring effect. If we’re lucky on Earth, we can see this effect in a solar eclipse, when the Moon blocks the Sun as seen from Earth. Here, Earth’s atmosphere is lit up by the sun, creating the ring and just enough sunlight is sneaking by on one side of the Earth, creating the diamond. Sensational! Plus, there’s a movie of the eclipse, too!

A penumbral lunar eclipse is a phenomenon in which the Sun, Earth and Moon line up in tandem, and the moon is in the Earth’s penumbra, or, when you look from the Moon, the Sun is partially covered by the Earth (partial eclipse.) When the phenomenon occurs, the volume of light from the Sun to the Moon decreases, making the Moon’s surface look darker when you see it from the Earth.

The Bad Astronomer waxes eloquently about the event, so give him a visit.

Source: JAXA

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Mark February 19, 2009 at 5:22 PM

Fantastic! What a memorable shot.

robbi February 19, 2009 at 5:26 PM

I’m surprised the optics of Japan’s Kaguya spacecraft is not damaged, however, I have no idea what they do to protect their optics when they get the opportunity to observe this unique event and is quite interesting.

Chris February 19, 2009 at 5:39 PM

wow, amazing

Max February 19, 2009 at 6:58 PM

I always understood that the reason we see an eclipse in the first place is because of the moons convenient size and location in relation to earth.
Isn’t the earth much bigger?
Shouldn’t it have blotted out the entire Sun from Kaguya’s viewpoint?

robbi February 19, 2009 at 7:47 PM

Max,our Earth, although nearly 4x the diameter of the Moon, has an atmosphere, and such a ‘ring’ will be seen during an eclipse of the Sun by the Earth-the key is the Earths’ atmosphere which I’m glad we have.
The Earth more than completely eclipsed the Sun, still that atmosphere

robbi February 19, 2009 at 7:58 PM

Max, I’m certain you knew about very ‘dark’ total lunar eclipse from Earth- the last very dark eclipse when the Moon virually disappeared instead if usually being dark red or orange was when Mount Pinatubo erupted in June1991, at that time my home had a clear view of the SW-NW area, and the sunsets was incredible to say the least, and probably rivaled Mt Krakatoa 1883 I’ve read about. A lunar eclipse was seen some time later after Mt Pinatubo erupted and Earths’ atmosphere was quite dimmed by the ash,etc so when I saw the Lunar Eclipse, it actually seem to disappear, it was the darkest Lunar Eclipse I’ve ever seen.

snowflake February 20, 2009 at 1:19 AM

This may have been the first eclipse photo from the orbit of the moon, but not from the distance of the moon. The first one was taken by the crew of Apollo 12 in November 1969, when an eclipse occurred just after the spacecraft had started the flight back to earth. The picture id is Apollo 12-S80-37406, if you want to search it by Google.

Rey February 20, 2009 at 2:22 AM

Wow…

A few more arcs, then I would have assumed this was a copy from the tv series, Heroes :D …go Claire bear! lol.

Uwe February 20, 2009 at 4:15 AM

Max,remember this was a penumbral eclipse, so the alignment did not cover the sun completely. Anyone who has seen a total solar eclipse knows that there is a big difference as compared with a partial eclipse. I am anxiously waiting for the day when we have a spacecraft on the moon during a total lunar eclipse and the sun is completely covered. Maybe during the lunar X-prize when we have a rover there.

Dave February 20, 2009 at 5:03 AM

Great picture – who’s going to China in July for the greatest eclipse this century?

Me – thats who! See you there

Timmy February 20, 2009 at 11:01 AM

The first image of an eclipse taken from the lunar surface was by the US Surveyor 3 lander in 1967.

This is the same lander that Apollo 12 came upon and returned some parts to Earth in late 1969.

Images and details are here:

http://lpod.wikispaces.com/March+14,+2008

robbi February 20, 2009 at 11:35 AM

Dave, I thought several times, however, I kinda thought about the fact that is the height of the Indian and Chinese monsoon rainy season. I hope you check carefully for areas that has the best chance on land -it appears the real true chances are on a ship near the point of maximum duration-this is something to think about in the longest duration total Solar Eclipse this century.

robbi February 20, 2009 at 1:10 PM

Dave- the Solar ecipse I’ve seen was in Feb1979, took a path thru NW Oregon into Washington, where I viewed from Goldendale,Washington state as that was a clear site, about a 2 minute event-the people went crazy with joy. I saw a much longer Solar eclipse in Central Mexico 1991 and that was an event awesome.The solar eclipse you will view,remember about the Monsoon season, so you can have flexibility in case of rainy skies. That eclipse you plan to view should be awesome-I did not sign up because of the monsoon then found we were already forming a 2 week family reunion in California as relatives living here and there say we must have a reunion as we are mostly in our mid50s to early 60s’ and mostly retired and know it will be very difficult later as sooner or later we will either croak out or be using petroleum powered wheel chairs lol or motorized walkers lol. It will be a 150-200 people event . I will be on a cruise ship I will soon sign-up for the Nov13,2012 event about 1500 miles ENE of New Zealand, this will be a 4.02 minute affair.
I wish you the greatest luck for clear skies and glad you will witness not just the best this century

robbi February 20, 2009 at 1:16 PM

Dave, I hope you read up should you want to be land based in the path of the best Solar Eclipse of the century
http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEmono/TSE2009/TSE2009.html

For an event of such incredible sight and the feeling of the event, it is never too early to plan accordingly

ayelmo February 21, 2009 at 6:55 AM

Great shot . Impresionante (spanish Languaje)

Procyan February 21, 2009 at 11:02 AM

Fantastic! Why doesn’t the ring appear red/orange?

robbi February 22, 2009 at 2:13 PM

Procyan- There is some coloration, depends on Earths’ surface and this picture is really not of high resolution published here

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