Earthrise Like You’ve Never Seen It Before

Nearly 47 years ago, the crew of Apollo 8 took an image of planet Earth from the Moon that has been called “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.” Called Earthrise, the picture represented the first time human eyes saw their homeworld come into view around another planetary body.

Now, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has captured stunning new high-definition views of Earth and the Moon from the spacecraft’s vantage point in lunar orbit.
Continue reading “Earthrise Like You’ve Never Seen It Before”

The Newest ‘Earthrise’ Image, Courtesy of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

That’s Earth. That’s us. Way off in the distance as a fairly small, blue and swirly white sphere. This is the newest so-called “Earthrise” image, and it was taken on February 1, 2014 by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

“LRO experiences twelve earthrises every day, however LROC is almost always busy imaging the lunar surface so only rarely does an opportunity arise such that LROC can capture a view of the Earth,” wrote LROC Principal Investigator Mark Robinson on the instrument’s website. “On the first of February of this year LRO pitched forward while approaching the north pole allowing the LROC WAC to capture the Earth rising above Rozhdestvenskiy crater (180-km diameter).”

Robinson went on to explain that the Earth is a color composite from several frames and the colors are very close to what the average person would see if they were looking back at Earth themselves from lunar orbit. “Also, in this image the relative brightness between the Earth and the Moon is correct, note how much brighter the Earth is relative to the Moon,” Robinson said.

Gorgeous.

Below is a gif image that demonstrates how images are combined over several orbits to create a full image from the Wide Angle Camera.

A gif image showing the “venetian blind” banding demonstrates how a WAC image is built up frame-by-frame. The gaps between the frames are due to the real separation of the WAC filters on the CCD. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

The frames were acquired at two second intervals, so the total time to collect the sequence was 5 minutes. The video is faster than reality by a factor of about 20.

See the Apollo 8 “Earthrise” in a Whole New Way

Earthrise - Apollo 8

One of the most famous images from the history of spaceflight is the picture taken by the crew of Apollo 8 of the “Earthrise” — the first color picture of taken of Earth as it became visible as the spacecraft came from behind the farside of the Moon. The photo was taken 45 years ago on December 24, 1968. It’s been called one of the most influential environmental photographs ever taken, and is one of the most-published pictures ever. As the photographer of this photo, astronaut Bill Anders has said, “We came all this way to discover the Moon. And what we really did discover is Earth.”

The NASA Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio has now released a new video that is a re-creation of that first Earthrise. The video is based on detailed analysis of Apollo 8 photography, including vertical stereo photos that were being taken at the same time as the Earthrise photos, combined with recent topographic models from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

“In the video,” space historian Andrew Chaikin — who narrates the new video — told Universe Today, “we see the Moon’s surface, generated from LRO data, exactly as it appeared to the astronauts through the different windows of the spacecraft. We also hear the astronauts’ voices as captured by the spacecraft’s onboard voice recorder, synchronized with the visual. The video reveals new details about this historic event and the resulting color photograph, which became an icon of the 20th century.”

Enjoy this wonderful new video, which explains how this historic image was taken. The visualization shows how Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman and crew members Anders and James Lovell worked together to photograph the stunning scene as their spacecraft orbited the Moon in 1968. The video allows anyone to virtually ride with the astronauts and experience the awe they felt at the vista in front of them.

The “Earthrise” photo is the cover photo of TIME’s Great Images of the 20th Century, and is the central photo on the cover of LIFE’s 100 Photographs That Changed the World.

“Earthrise had a profound impact on our attitudes toward our home planet, quickly becoming an icon of the environmental movement,” said Ernie Wright, who lead the video project with the SVS.

You can read more details of how the video was put together in this NASA press release.

A computer-generated visualization of the Apollo 8 spacecraft in orbit around the moon, with Earth rising over the horizon. Image Credit:  Ernie Wright/NASA Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio
A computer-generated visualization of the Apollo 8 spacecraft in orbit around the moon, with Earth rising over the horizon.
Image Credit:
Ernie Wright/NASA Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

Earthrise, Revisited


On December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, William Anders and Jim Lovell were the first humans to witness an Earthrise as our home planet came up over the lunar horizon. The photos they captured were the first of their kind, instantly inspiring the imaginations of millions and highlighting the beauty and fragility of our world.

Now, NASA has used modern satellite data to recreate the scenes that the Apollo 8 astronauts saw 44 years ago and combined them with their historic photographs to present a new “Earthrise”… version 2.0.

Created in recognition of Earth Day 2012, the Earthrise animation was made from data acquired by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s laser altimeter, as well as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra Earth-observing satellite.

“This visualization recreates for everyone the wondrous experience of seeing Earth from that privileged viewpoint,” says LRO Project Scientist Rich Vondrak of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Animator Ernie Wright recreated the scene using Apollo mission reports and photos taken by the crew. The audio is a recording of original communication from the astronauts.

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“I think the one overwhelming emotion that we had was when we saw the earth rising in the distance over the lunar landscape… it makes us realize that we all do exist on one small globe. For from 230,000 miles away it really is a small planet.”

— Frank Borman, Apollo 8 Commander

Read the release on the NASA LRO site here.

Video: NASA/GSFC

Terminator

Geological Period

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No, this isn’t a movie about robots. The terminator is the line that separates day from night on an object lit by a star. You can see evidence of this terminator when you look at the Moon. When we see the Moon, half in light and half in darkness, we’re seeing the terminator line going right down the middle of the Moon.

From our perspective here on Earth, we see the Sun rise from the East, go through the sky and then set again in the West. But if you could see the Earth from space, you would see half the planet is always illuminated, and half the planet is always in shadow. Since the Earth is rotating, we can watch different parts of the planet illuminated, and other parts darkened. The people on the surface of the planet are experiencing the Sun moving through the sky, but really it’s them who are doing the moving.

The location of the terminator depends on the axial tilt of the object. Since the Earth is tilted by 23.5° away from the Sun’s axis, the position of the terminator changes depending on the season. During summer in the northern horizon, the Earth’s north pole never goes into shadow, so the terminator never crosses the pole. And then in winter in the northern horizon, it never comes out of shadow.

If you could orbit the Earth, just above the equator, you would see the terminator line speeding away at approximately 1,600 km/h (1000 miles per hour). Only the fastest supersonic aircraft can match the terminator’s speed. But as you get closer to the poles, the terminator moves more slowly. Eventually at the poles, you can walk faster than the speed of the terminator.

When you see a terminator from afar, it can tell you a lot about a planet or moon. For example, the Earth’s terminator is fuzzy. This means that our planet has a thick atmosphere that scatters the light from the Sun. The Moon, on the other hand, is airless, so its terminator is a crisp line. When you’re standing on the surface of the Moon, it’s either bright or dark, not the in-between twilight that we experience here on Earth.

We have written many articles about the terminator for Universe Today. Here’s an article about why the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West, and here are some Earthrise photos.

If you’d like more info on Earth, check out NASA’s Solar System Exploration Guide on Earth. And here’s a link to NASA’s Earth Observatory.

We’ve also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast all about planet Earth. Listen here, Episode 51: Earth.

Reference:
NASA Earth Observatory