You’ve no doubt seen the stream of mind-blowing photos of solar eclipses taken from Earth and perhaps even a few images from the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit. If you are lucky enough, you might have even one with your own eyes.
NASA has released an image of the great 2017 eclipse from the view of the Moon itself, as its shadow sped across the US at 670 meters per second (1,500 miles per hour).
The image was taken at 2:25:30 PM EDT (18:25:30 UTC) on August 21, the day of the solar eclipse, by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter as the Moon’s shadow passed over the Earth just north of Nashville, Tennessee.
This orbiter was launched on June 18, 2009. During its tenure, it has captured some stunning images that have developed our understanding of the Solar System, all while being mighty fine to look at. Its onboard Narrow Angle Camera builds up an image line by line, unlike a “snapshot” taken on your phone or a conventional camera. In this image, for example, it took over 52,224 lines to compose the image over a time span of around 18 seconds.
While the total solar eclipse gripped Earthlings in the US, it was more or less a normal day on the Moon aside from the strange shadow down below.
“The lunar nearside was one week into its two-week night, while the Sun shone on the farside in the middle of its two-week day," Dr Mark Robinson, principal investigator for the imaging system on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, said in a commentary. "For the Moon, and the LRO spacecraft observing the Moon, the real excitement is during a lunar eclipse, when the shadow of the Earth sweeps across the Moon."
“During this time the lunar surface temperatures drop rapidly and LRO’s thermal imager, the Diviner Lunar Radiometer, can learn about the material properties of the rocks and soils by studying their temperature just after the lights abruptly go out," he added. "Though for the LRO spacecraft itself, the Earth’s shadow means that most of the other instruments must be powered down because of the lack of power coming from the solar panels.”