2007/11/17

The Earth Also Rises

More pictures from "Kaguya" (Selene) in polar lunar orbit -

This time, JAXA released HDTV pictures of the Earth appearing to rise over the Moon's north pole. Click the pics below to see the full sized versions:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


In this series of pictures one sees the Earth as setting as the Kaguya satellite went over the Moon's south pole.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

To a person on the surface of the moon, the Earth does not rise or set, but stays in the same position in the sky. This is because the rotation of the Moon matches its orbit around the Earth - once every 27 days, 7 hours, and 43 minutes i.e. it rotates on its axis once in the same amount of time that it takes to orbit the Earth which keeps the same side facing us all of the time. The reason that is so is that the moon has an unsymmetrical distribution of mass and Earth's gravitational field holds the more massive hemisphere of the Moon facing the Earth.

So it is only from lunar orbit that one can see a lunar "Earth rise" or "Earth set".

Go to this Kaguya (Selene) webpage to watch a video clip of Earth rise from lunar orbit, and this webpage to watch video of the Earth setting. (You'll have to provide your own music - cue up Also sprach Zarathustra.)

I hope these pictures - as the pictures of Earth from space taken by Bill Anders on Apollo 8 did nearly 29 years ago - awaken a new generation to our true situation on "spaceship Earth". There is no "Plan B", no life boat, no second chance.

Trivia: While Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" may be great music (it is one of very few rock albums I actually enjoy listening to), there is in fact no permanently "dark side of the Moon" any more than there is a dark side of the Earth, only the "back side" of the Moon, never seen from Earth, but which does experience day and night.


8 comments:

Don Snabulus said...

That is beautiful and even with what we know about science, the scenery strikes me as very alien even though we are gazing upon our home.

Pandabonium said...

Snabby - every person who has gone into space (that I have read quoted) says that the view of Earth, even from low Earth orbit, has had a profound effect on them - both an emotional impact as well as on the way they think about our planet.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Especially when they see how hopelessly thin the atmosphere really is.

Pandabonium said...

Moody - that's very true. the earth is roughly 12,750 km in diameter, but the atmosphere is only about 100 km thick (difficult to say with precision as it fades gradually into space).

Much like Apollo 13 astronauts and ground crew, we are balanced on a razor's edge and must use every means at our disposal to maintain the viability of our ecosystem. Unlike many things in everyday life, if we screw up we can't just go buy another one.

nzm said...

These are awesome images - thanks for posting them.

ladybug said...

Kudos for finding, and explaining the technical aspects of the awesome photos!

I hope these make it into the US media as well, perhaps we can have another "Big Blue Marble" wake-up moment...

Swinebread said...

Fantastic pictures... Sometimes I wish the moon had an atmosphere…

Pandabonium said...

Swinebread - why? would you like to be able to visit there without need of a space suit, or what? I'm curious. I find the contrast of the moon and Earth both interesting and frightening. If we aren't careful, the Earth could end up looking like the moon.