Eclipse Seen by Moon Probe as Earth Blocks Sun
Japan's Kaguya probe caught this sight of Earth's diamond ring as the planet passed in front of the sun as seen from the lunar orbit. The ring appears incomplete at the bottom, where the night-darkened limb of the moon obscures its view.
Credit: JAXA/NHK.

Japan?s Kaguya lunar orbiter has beamed home a spectacular movie of Earth eclipsing the sun as seen from the moon.

Kaguya caught the stunning sight on Feb. 10 and used its high definition camera to record the moment when the Earth looked like a diamond ring.

This HDTV moment in time and space came when a penumbral lunar eclipse occurred and the view of the sun from the Kaguya was mostly covered by the Earth, thus the Earth looked like a diamond ring. The moon?s limb, hidden by darkness, obscures part of the lower portion of the ring.

According to Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) officials, this is the first time that this phenomenon was shot from the moon. JAXA operates Kaguya, which launched toward the moon in September 2007.

Eclipses occur when the sun, Earth and moon are lined up perfectly. At full moon, there can be a lunar eclipse, as seen from Earth. At new moon, there can be a solar eclipse. Because the moon orbits Earth in a plane slightly offset compared to the plane of Earth?s orbit around the sun, eclipses don?t occur every month, however. And when we?re having a lunar eclipse, anyone on the moon, at least if they?re in the right spot, could see the sun blocked by Earth.

Kaguya project manager Susumu Sasaki has noted that the orbiter will continue its observations until early 2009 using the main orbiter on the same orbit of 62 miles (100 km) in altitude above the Moon. Kaguya carried a pair of smaller microsatellites to the moon when it launched. Those smaller craft were deployed shortly after it entered lunar orbit.

The spacecraft will then lower its altitude sometime in spring to perform higher accuracy and new additional observations on the Moon's magnetic fields, plasma environment, and make other measurements. The plan is to drop the main orbiter on the near side of the Moon before the summer of 2009.

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