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A spacecraft recorded a lunar eclipse like you’ve never seen it before

A spacecraft recorded a lunar eclipse like youve never seen it before

(ORDO NEWS) — A total lunar eclipse is an incredible sight. As the Earth passes between the Moon and the Sun, its shadow skims across our satellite’s face so that only long red waves – sunlight refracted by the Earth’s atmosphere – can break through, turning the normally pale Moon blood red.

That’s when we see it from here, from our planet. But from space, the view is very different – and now we can see what it looks like thanks to the Lucy asteroid probe, launched in October 2021 by the Southwestern Research Institute (SwRI).

During the recent total lunar eclipse that could be seen on the night of May 16 across most of the American continent, Lucy was about 100 million kilometers (65 million miles) from Earth.

“While total lunar eclipses are not uncommon – they happen every year or so – it’s not often that you get a chance to observe them from a completely new angle,” said planetary scientist Hal Levison of SwRI.

“When the team realized that Lucy had a chance to observe this lunar eclipse as part of the instrument calibration process, everyone was incredibly excited.”

Over the course of about three hours, the spacecraft took 86 1-ms images with its high-resolution black-and-white L’LORRI instrument, which were sent home to Earth and stitched into a time-lapse of the first half of the eclipse.

In the resulting video, Earth and its moon are visible in the distance, separated from each other by about 360,000 kilometers (224,000 miles), both lit by the Sun, far to the left of the frame. The moon is much fainter than the sun, so scientists illuminated it to make it visible. As the video progresses, the Moon disappears completely, engulfed by the Earth’s shadow.

This is a great demonstration of the mechanics of a total lunar eclipse, as well as the capabilities of the L’LORRI camera, which will take pictures of the Trojan asteroids that share the orbit of Jupiter at a much greater distance from the Sun.

Since the device is designed to work in a colder thermal environment, the time-lapse work had to be carried out very carefully – that’s why only half of the eclipse was filmed to avoid overheating.

“Receiving these images was a really amazing team effort,” said planetary scientist John Spencer of SwRI.

“The instrumentation, targeting, navigation and scientific operations teams had to work together to collect this data and get the Earth and Moon in the same frame.”

The results obtained are not only useful for calibration. They offer us earthlings a completely different view of our home world and satellite during one of the most impressive spectacles that the Moon gives us. And it’s breathtaking.


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