The unique view of Earth was recently captured from the spacecraft’s vantage point in orbit around the moon.
“The image of the Earth evokes the famous ‘Blue Marble’ image taken by Astronaut Harrison Schmitt during Apollo 17, 43 years ago, which also showed Africa prominently in the picture,” said Noah Petro, Deputy Project Scientist for LRO.
The centre of the face of the Earth caught by the LRO is just off the coast of Liberia.
The moonscape in the foreground is part of the Compton crater on the lunar farside.
LRO was launched on 18 June 2009 top collect data about the Moon with its seven powerful instruments. It experiences 12 earthrises every day but usually images the surface of the Moon rather than looking towards home.
From the Earth, the daily moonrise and moonset are always inspiring moments,” said Mark Robinson of Arizona State University in Tempe, principal investigator for LROC.
“However, lunar astronauts will see something very different: viewed from the lunar surface, the Earth never rises or sets. Since the Moon is tidally locked, Earth is always in the same spot above the horizon, varying only a small amount with the slight wobble of the moon.
“The Earth may not move across the ‘sky’, but the view is not static. Future astronauts will see the continents rotate in and out of view and the ever-changing pattern of clouds will always catch one’s eye, at least on the nearside.
“The Earth is never visible from the farside; imagine a sky with no Earth or Moon – what will farside explorers think with no Earth overhead?”
NASA’s first Earthrise image was taken with the Lunar Orbiter 1 spacecraft in 1966 but perhaps NASA’s most iconic Earthrise photo was taken by the crew of the Apollo 8 mission as the spacecraft entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve 1968.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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