This 12th April it is 50 years since the first human entered space and returned safe and sound. Yuri Gagarin was the brave young man who made space exploration history. And it was again our home planet that fascinated first and foremost. What a spectacular view it must have been, and still is for that matter. The view Gagarin had is very similar to the image above and this very view resulted in the now famous words from Gagarin: “I see Earth! It is so beautiful!”
Yuri Gagarin is all over the news these days. He has been, and will even after this year’s anniversary, still be celebrated in the yearly ‘Yuri’s Night’.
Here’s more reading about Yuri Gagarin around the internets:
Modern times simulation (from ISS) of Gagarin’s view of Earth
JAXA Press Release – KAGUYA (SELENE) Successfully Captures Moving Images of the Earth
at the Time of a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse using HDTV
February 18, 2009 (JST)
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) successfully took moving images of the precise Earth rise moment when the Earth looked like a diamond ring using the onboard high definition camera (HDTV) of the lunar explorer “KAGUYA” (SELENE) on February 10, 2009 (Japan Standard Time, all the following dates and times are Japan Standard Time.) The moment came when a penumbral lunar eclipse occurred and sunlight was covered by the Earth. During that time, since the view of the Sun from the KAGUYA was mostly covered by the Earth, the KAGUYA observed that the Earth looked like a diamond ring. This is the first time that this phenomenon was shot from the Moon.
The images were shot by the HDTV onboard the KAGUYA for space-use developing by NHK. The moving images were received at JAXA and processed at NHK.
* A penumbral lunar eclipse is a phenomenon in which the Sun, Earth and Moon line up in tandem, hence 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.) During this phenomenon, the volume of sunlight to the Moon decreases, and the Moon’s surface looks darker when you look at the Moon from the Earth. The KAGUYA, which circles around the Moon on its polar orbit, can witness this phenomenon only twice a year at most, thus it was very valuable to capture the moving images of the phenomenon from the KAGUYA.
The Earth by the HDTV (Tele-camera) during the penumbral lunar eclipse
Figure 1 Image of the Earth by the HDTV (Tele-camera) during the penumbral lunar eclipse
This still image was a cutout from the moving images taken by the onboard HDTV (tele-camera) of the KAGUYA (SELENE) on February 10, 2009.
The bright part on the lower right side is the Sun and the black area surrounded by the thin light ring is the Earth. The red dotted line shows the Moon’s surface. Most of the Sun is covered by the Earth and the Moon’s surface.
The contour of the Earth is shining in a ring shape because of the atmosphere. It scatters in the atmosphere in the periphery of the Earth, and a part of the sunlight reaches the Moon. The Earth’s rim looks like a blue ring from the Moon since it is thought that the scattering sunlight with blue color light occurs easily because of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Figure 2 Sequence images of the Earth by the HDTV (Tele-camera) during the penumbral lunar eclipse
The KAGUYA captured the moving image of the Earth and the Sun gradually rising from the Moon’s surface. The above sequence of images is a cutout from the moving image to show the rising process.
The image on the far left is just after the Earth rise from the Moon’s surface. It took about 47 seconds to film from the left to the right when the Sun came out from the Moon’s surface and the diamond ring appeared.
Figure 3 Positions of the KAGUYA, Moon, Earth and Sun when images of the Earth-rise during the penumbral lunar eclipse
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While astrobiologists wait for the launch of the Kepler mission, which may help us find Earth like planets orbiting other stars, questions arise about how our own Earth may have looked to extraterrestrial observers. To do this, scientists have taken Earth observing imaging data and extrapolated the Earth’s surface back in time focusing on the vegetation red edge. This provides astronomers with an idea of how today’s observers may discover plant life on other extrasolar planets (exoplanets), once the instruments have been built and placed in space. Read more about how Earth may be viewed by distant astronomers as an exoplanet itself online at http://xxx.lanl.gov/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0901/0901.1214v1.pdf