We’re accustomed to seeing stunning images of both the Moon and Earth floating in space. It’s the age we live in. But seeing them together is rare. Now, NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) has captured images of the Moon passing between itself and the Earth, in effect photo-bombing Earth.
The image was captured with the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) camera on DISCOVR, and is the second time this has been captured. EPIC is a 4 megapixel camera on board DSCOVR, and DSCOVR is in orbit about 1.6 million km (1 million miles) from Earth, between the Earth and the Sun.
“For the second time in the life of DSCOVR, the moon moved between the spacecraft and Earth,” said Adam Szabo, DSCOVR project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Cool pictures of the Moon are a bonus, though, as DSCOVR’s primary mission is to monitor the solar wind in real time for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It does so while inhabiting the first LaGrange point between the Earth and the Sun, where the gravitational pull of the Sun and the Earth balance each other. To do so requires a complex orbit called a Lissajous orbit, a non-recurring orbit which takes DSCOVR from an ellipse to a circle and back.
DSCOVR has other important work to do. From its vantage point, DSCOVR keeps a constantly illuminated view of the surface of the Earth as it rotates. DSCOVR provides observations of cloud height, vegetation, ozone, and aerosols in the atmosphere. This is important scientific data in monitoring and understanding Earth’s climate.
DSCOVR is a partnership between NASA, NOAA and the U.S. Air Force. As mentioned above, its primary objective is maintaining the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities, which are critical to the accuracy and lead time of space weather alerts and forecasts from NOAA. The DSCOVR website also has daily color pictures of the Earth, for all your eye-candy needs.
Check it out: