A Japanese spacecraft orbiting the moon has beamed back stunning footage of a round, blue Earth rising above the lunar horizon.
The high-definition video camera aboard Japan?s lunar orbiter Kaguya caught the rare view of the full Earth as it rose above the moon?s horizon on April 5, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) officials said in a recent statement after releasing a short video of the event.
?This is the first time that a high-[definition] image of the ?Full Earth-rise? has been captured from space,? JAXA officials said.
The sun, Earth, moon and Kaguya have to line up just right in order to present a full, orb-like Earth to the spacecraft?s camera, an arrangement that only occurs about twice a year, they added.
The three-ton Kaguya spacecraft recorded the rising Earth view from lunar orbit at a distance of about 236,121 miles (380,000 km) from its home planet.
The probe?s high-definition television camera, which was provided by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK), has recorded an Earthrise before during a Nov. 7, 2007 orbit. But that pass caught a waning Earth, not the full, bright disc spotted on April 5, JAXA officials said.
Named after a moon princess in a Japanese folktale, Japan?s Kaguya spacecraft launched toward the moon in September 2007 on a one-year mission to explore the lunar surface. JAXA officials have since said that the flight of Kaguya, also known as the SELenological and ENgineering Explorer (SELENE), may be extended.
The 55 billion-yen ($480 million) orbiter carries 14 science instruments, including the high-definition camera, to study the lunar surface from an altitude of about 62 miles (100 km). The probe has also successfully deployed two miniature satellites to map the moon?s gravitational field.
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