Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2014 April 7
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A Solar Eclipse from the Moon
Video Credit: NASA, Surveyor 3; Acknowledgement: R. D. Sampson (ECSU)

Explanation: Has a solar eclipse ever been seen from the Moon? Yes, first in 1967 -- but it may happen again next week. The robotic Surveyor 3 mission took thousands of wide angle television images of the Earth in 1967, a few of which captured the Earth moving in front of the Sun. Several of these images have been retrieved from the NASA archives and compiled into the above time-lapse video. Although the images are grainy, the Earth's atmosphere clearly refracted sunlight around it and showed a beading effect when some paths were blocked by clouds. Two years later, in 1969, the Apollo 12 crew saw firsthand a different eclipse of the Sun by the Earth on the way back from the Moon. In 2009, Japan's robotic Kaguya spacecraft took higher resolution images of a similar eclipse while orbiting the Moon. Next week, however, China's Chang'e 3 mission, including its Yutu rover, might witness a new total eclipse of the Sun by the Earth from surface of the Moon. Simultaneously, from lunar orbit, NASA's LADEE mission might also capture the unusual April 15 event. Another angle of this same event will surely be visible to people on Earth -- a total lunar eclipse.

Tomorrow's picture: inside orion

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