Transit of Earth

Jul 18, 2008 12:41pm

31 million miles from Earth, NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft has taken a look back at us — at just the right moment.  In a time-lapse movie from May 29, it shows a transit — a passage of the Moon across the face of the Earth.  We think you’ll agree it’s very cool.

There’s more information HERE from the University of Maryland, which runs the mission for NASA. (NOTE, added Saturday: you can also find different formats there of the video, without the commercial that plays with our embedded version.  My apologies to those who were annoyed by it.)

The darkness and slightly ruddy color of the Moon are not accidental.  We think of the Moon as a bright disc as it reflects sunlight our way, but in fact lunar soil is much darker than the Earth, with its white clouds and blue oceans.  Apollo astronauts, describing the Moon’s color from close-up, often remarked about the…lack of color. 

The movie is very sped-up; it was assembled from images shot fifteen minutes apart.  More information HERE.

Deep Impact made its mark on July 4, 2005, when it sent a probe crashing into a comet and recorded the results.  Even NASA believes in recycling these days: the robot ship has been given a new mission, called EPOXI; it will fly by another comet in 2010.

The University of Maryland says the video is for more than amusement.  Images from the last six months of flight will be used "to characterize the Earth as a planet for comparison with planets around other stars."

Video Credit: Donald J. Lindler, Sigma Space Corporation and NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/UMD

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