Category Archives: The Moon

Watch a Full Year of the Moon (in Five Minutes)

This is pretty neat — it’s a visualization of the Moon’s phases and libration all throughout 2014, made by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Visualization Studio. They’ve done these several times in the past, and this is the latest one.

For accuracy you just can’t beat it: the global terrain map you see in the rendering was made with actual images and measurements of the lunar surface obtained by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s LROC camera and laser altimeter. It’s the most detailed imaging of the Moon’s surface available!

So you know about the phases, but why is the Moon rocking back and forth like that? That’s the libration effect I mentioned — read more below:
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On the Lunatic Fringe: LADEE’s First Pictures of the Moon

Image of the Moon and stars from NASA's LADEE spacecraft, Feb. 8, 2014 (NASA/Ames)

Image of the Moon and stars from NASA’s LADEE spacecraft, Feb. 8, 2014 (NASA/Ames)

It’s getting so a spacecraft can’t take a decent picture these days without SOMEONE getting in the way! (*Ahem* MOON.) But then it just might be the lunatic we’re looking for…

The image above is one of five that were downlinked by NASA’s Lunar Atmospheric Dust Environment Explorer — aka LADEE (that’s “laddie” à la Mr. Scott, not “lady” à la Jerry Lewis) — and was taken on Feb. 8 with its wide-angle star tracker camera. We see a small portion of the lunar terrain illuminated by reflected light from the Earth from the spacecraft’s position about 156 miles above the Moon, which is about 100 miles lower than the ISS orbits above the Earth.

While not a particularly detailed image of the Moon like something we’d see from LRO, it’s still neat to see it close up and on its night side! The star tracker instrument is mainly a calibration tool for navigation… but that doesn’t mean it’s blind. (Just a wee bit farsighted.)

Read more about this in my Discovery News article.

48 Years Ago Today: The First Image from the Moon

The first image from the lunar surface, taken by the Soviet Luna 9 in 1966

The first image from the lunar surface, taken by the Soviet Luna 9  lander in 1966

On this day in 1966, the Soviet Luna 9 spacecraft made the first successful soft landing on the Moon and, 7 hours later, transmitted its first images of the lunar surface back to Earth. The image above is the Luna 9 lander’s first view.

It was the very first time we had ever seen images taken from the surface of another world.

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50 Amazing Facts About the Moon

There's a lot of fascinating things to learn about our Moon, and here are 50 of them!

There are a lot of fascinating things to learn about our Moon, and here are 50 of them!

How fast does the Moon rotate? How far is it (on average) to the Moon? How long did it take to build a lunar rover for the Apollo missions? And what did one cost? You could Google all of these answers for yourself, of course, but it’ll be a lot quicker — not to mention a lot more fun — to find out in the newest space-themed infographic from Neomammalian Studios, 50 Amazing Facts About the Moon! Check it out below. There may be some things you didn’t know about our planet’s partner in space.

(And here’s a little tip: don’t ever tell Buzz Aldrin he didn’t go to the Moon…)

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Experience Earthrise with Apollo 8

On December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 entered lunar orbit making astronauts Frank Borman, Bill Anders, and Jim Lovell the first humans in history to travel around the Moon and see first-hand its hidden far side. During their 10-orbit voyage they captured one of the most well-known and iconic images of the Space Age: the blue-and-white sphere of Earth floating in the blackness of space beyond the Moon’s cratered limb. It was the first time a person had ever taken such a magnificent photo of the two worlds, and thanks to the trove of data acquired by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter we can now recreate the exact moments that the historic event took place, down to the position of the Apollo 8 spacecraft and the conversation between the three men aboard.

The video above, released today by NASA, lets us all experience what it was like to catch a glimpse of the Earth from within Apollo 8 45 years ago. Check it out — preferably in full-screen, high-definition. It’s worth it.

“The vast loneliness up here at the Moon is awe-inspiring, and it makes you realize what you have back there on Earth. The Earth from here is a grand oasis in the big vastness of space.”

— Jim Lovell, live Apollo 8 telecast, Dec. 24, 1968

Want to see more photos from Apollo 8? Visit the Project Apollo Image Archive here.

A Portrait of Earth and the Moon from 4 Million Miles Away

Earth and the Moon from Galileo, Dec. 16, 1992 (NASA)

Earth and the Moon seen by Galileo, Dec. 16, 1992 (NASA)

21 years ago today, December 16th, 1992, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft took this image of Earth and the Moon from a distance of about 3.9 million miles (6.2 million km). It’s one of the few images ever captured that singularly show both worlds in their entirety.

And to think that when this image was taken, our planet’s human population was 5.49 billion — 1.7 billion less than it is today. To put that into perspective, it wasn’t until 1830 that Earth had 1 billion people living on it. The next billion wasn’t reached until 100 years later. (Source)

(Needless to say, Earth itself hasn’t gotten any larger.)
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There’s a Jade Rabbit on the Moon!

Screenshot of a CCTV video showing the Yutu rover rolling onto the lunar surface (CCTV)

Screenshot of a CCTV video showing the Yutu rover rolling onto the lunar surface (CCTV)

There’s a rabbit on the Moon! A robot rabbit, that is — China’s Yutu rover (named after the mythological jade rabbit pet of the lunar goddess Chang’e) successfully deployed from the Chang’e-3 lander earlier this afternoon, completing the country’s first successful lunar landing and the first soft touchdown on the Moon by any nation since the Soviet Luna 24 mission in 1976. (“Soft” meaning not a crash impact, whether intentional or not.)

The image above is a screenshot from a YouTube video of the rover deployment from China Central Television — watch the full footage below:

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