Earthrise, Earthset

By Phil Plait | November 13, 2007 10:55 pm

The Japanese Kaguya Moon probe just took a stunning set of images of the Earth over the limb of the Moon. Drink this in:

Wow. This HD picture shows the Earth appearing to rise as the satellite orbits the Moon (from the surface, the Earth never really rises except under very limited circumstances having to do with its synchronous rotation and libration).

But then it shot a series of pictures of the Earth setting:

Wow again!

But take a good look at the images. See how dark the Moon looks? That’s real: the Moon is, on average, about 1/2 to 1/4 as reflective as the Earth is, so the Earth looks bright while the Moon looks dark. For an even more striking example of this, check out the lunar dust on Buzz Aldrin’s knees in the famous Man on the Moon picture. The surface looks bright, but the dust is charcoal gray.

These are amazing pictures, and I’m really looking forward to more! There are a half dozen or so spots on the Moon in particular I’d love to see in hi-res. When more spectacular ones like these come out, I’ll be sure to post ’em.


Comments (51)

Links to this Post

  1. The Leirdal Blog | November 14, 2007
  2. Chris Lintott’s Universe » Looking home | November 14, 2007
  1. John

    Awesome pictures, thanks for the heads up.

  2. cameron

    no stars! fake!

    but seriously, really incredible pictures.

  3. Karnbeln

    There aren’t any stars! The Japanese satellite is a hoax! OPEN YOUR EYES, PEOPLE!

  4. Adam S

    They keep advertising HD video, but all I can find is small flash video. If it isn’t at least 720p, it’s not HD.

  5. Chris

    There’s no stars because the stars are too dim to be photographed! Phil talked about that type of thing on the Moon Hoax part of the site. In your own words: “OPEN YOUR EYES, PEOPLE!”

  6. Mark Hansen

    I think you’ll find they were indulging in a little humour.

  7. DLC

    Very nice. good sharp image. Hey, if it passes over any of the Apollo sites it would be interesting to see the images. based on the resolution in the full-motion video, I’d say we’d only see a couple of small blotches which could be mistaken for video artifacts — but still, a blast from the past.

  8. mr. passing by

    North American EXCLUSIVE: First HD footage from the Moon
    Wednesday, November 14, 8 pm ET on Discovery HD

    Don’t miss it!

  9. bjswift

    Ugh. So obviously fake.

    If this wasn’t so fake they would be some of the most incredible pictures ever. Pun intended.

  10. Martin Moran

    Could they or are they going to take a picture of the moon landing sites? Surely that would end the argument.

  11. Thomas Siefert

    Chris: sarcasm is clearly not your strong point you must be American, tourist guides warns about using sarcasm over there :-)

  12. Totally a sound stage on mars.


  13. Grand Lunar

    Now this is the stuff I like to see!

    Why is the probe also called Selene on the website? Was this the original name? Is it homage to a previous probe?

  14. Grand Lunar

    Incidently, does anyone else feel like playing the theme to “2001” with those videos?

  15. Adrian

    The shadows are all wrong. Obviously photoshopped.

    Kidding. Those are spectacular images.

  16. Sergeant Zim

    Grand Lunar, you read my mind, I haven’t seen the videos yet, but the big picture just became my desktop background, and yes, I swear I could hear Also Sprach Zarasthustra(sp?) when I first saw it.

  17. I agree that the first few posters were indulging in something called “sarcasm” with their references to the no stars thing. Personally I have always believed that we did truly land on the moon simply because IF it had been faked, the special effects would have been much better. On the other hand, if George Lucas comes out with a new digitally remastered edition of the moon landing, then I might have to re-evaluate my lack of skepticism.

    Think I’ll steal those photos for my own site. Shhhh….

  18. TDL

    What really impresses me is that the NASA was able to fake the earthrise pictures done almost 30 years ago with such accuracy to the actual shots we see today!


  19. Darth Curt

    That is a sight I would love to see with my own eyes! Wow, that is really quite stunning. Thanks for sharing, Phil.

  20. Anybody know if that show is showing on the American Discovery Channel? Listings show it only for the Canadian version of the channel… I’d *love* to see these in HD…

  21. Ken B

    What is the resolution of the photos? Would the Apollo sites resolve to anything larger than a pixel?

    And, TDL, the reason these photos look so much like the NASA fakes is that the Japanese are part of the conspiracy, so they made sure that their fakes looked just like NASA’s. :-)

  22. dre

    The ozzies will be thrilled, no doubt, but I think the “Earthset” sequence should be turned over. South is up in that collage (note Australia and South Asia), and I think it would be nice to see how Kaguya was peeking “under” the moon to get the shot.

    That’s my North-centric view, and you can’t change it!

  23. Gand Lunar: The Selene satellite is named after the famous Canadian singer Selene Dion because, well, she’s a star.

  24. American Voyager

    The first picture looks like the Space 1999 opening sequence when you see the Moon heading away from the Earth. Seriously……..spectacular photo! Wish I could see it in person.

  25. Darth Curt

    Anyone check to see if the relative size of the earth is the same size as the earth in the pics the Astronauts took? Of course they would be, because the Japanese are in on the conspiracy (as mentioned above). I suppose the Earth’s size as viewed from the moon would be a few simple calculations and easy to fake. (Don’t go crazy… they landed… THEY LANDED!!! :) )

    That gif of the earth bouncing almost makes the moon look CG… ūüėź

  26. Bill

    These photos are obviously a hoax! If you look closely in the lower left corner you can clearly see a small Japanese man in a rubber godzilla suit

  27. Skepterist

    Adam said, “They keep advertising HD video, but all I can find is small flash video. If it isn√Ę‚ā¨‚ĄĘt at least 720p, it√Ę‚ā¨‚ĄĘs not HD.”

    The videos are reduced in size for the web. The specs for the sensors are listed right at the bottom of the article. You can read more about the camera (and all the other scientific equipment) here:

    1920√É‚ÄĒ1080 is HD.

  28. [Romulan Senator]IT’S A FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE![/DS9 Reference]

    It doesn’t show SHADO’s facility. No habitats, no landing base, and no Interceptor launch platforms. SHADO is clearly part of the real Moon Hoax conspiracy: we’ve been fighting organ-stealing aliens since at least 1980. 1980! 1980!

  29. Jere Y.

    Does anybody know if we can see this satellite orbit the moon through a backyard telescope?

  30. I doubt it. If I recall correctly it’s rather small, not particularly reflective, and its orbit may not be conducive to scope viewing (as it’d be going a good clip around what’s already usually the brightest thing in the night sky, even if it is only 20% full)

  31. Lance

    Can anyone answer Martin Moran’s question about the orbiter photographing the Apollo landing sites?

    I realize that the poor souls that refute the moon landings will probably just say that the new pictures are fake, but it would be cool to see what are basically historical sites that have not been viewed in over three decades.

  32. Graham

    *Sniff* It’s so small!

  33. Karnbeln

    It does not have the resolution to see the landers. However, some other probe going up in the coming years will apparently be able to.

    Sorry for being so vague, I don’t know much about it myself.

  34. Yeah, those are fabulous pictures! One funny thing is that in one of those pictures the north pole is in the bottom and Australia up in the left corner :)

  35. Wired

    If the Moon is so dark then why are the photos of a-nauts so bright and so many shadow castings….to many hemi’s on the ceiling…eh?

  36. Tony Rein

    Jere Y posted a question asking about seeing satellites of the Moon with a telescope from the Earth. I just read a fascinating book called “The Haunted Observatory.” One chapter deals with the whole question of how to search for Moon satellites from the surface of the Earth. While it dealt with professional astronomers searching for natural satellites, it was interesting. The short answer is no, you can’t see it, probably not even with big telescopes. Too bad!

  37. Hank Roberts

    These should rearrange into lovely stereo pairs.
    Anyone done that already?

  38. Hank Roberts

    Oh, duh, nevermind. That’s what “Earthbounce” did.

    My neck hurts.

  39. john M

    The second one is definetly real, the earth appears much larger than the moon does from hear on earth, it should be about 13 times larger. But I think that the first one is suspicious it is too small, it doesn’t match the second one. Could someone answer this.

  40. lara king

    Why is the earth so very much smaller than on the photos from the US moon missions? Surely this is a huge error? Why is there not a great deal of comment concerning this astonishing anomaly? Is there some explanation that can be seen as at least vaguely reasonable? Have we shrunk the planet? Did the US missions inflate the planet? Did the Japanese camera shrink us? Surely the Earth must look bigger from the moon than the moon looks from Earth? If not, why not? In these pictures, earth rise is smaller than moon rise. Inexplicable!

  41. lara king, the size of the Earth in the picture depends on the lens used to take the picture. Your eyes would see the Earth as small, bu a telescope would make it look big.

    It’s hardly “inexplicable”; in fact it’s incredibly obvious to anyone with any experience in photography. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean there isn’t an explanation.

    In the future, I suggest you keep your mind open enough to ask a question instead of declare something being impossible.

  42. Joseph Starbuck

    Try this on for size…on November 14th, 2007, the moon was just starting a waxing crescent, which in the Northern Hemisphere creates a crescent shadow on the right side of the observed moon. This means that the corresponding crescent shadow on the earth would be on the right side of the earth as viewed from the moon – which is exactly what we see in the photo. The only problem is, that is how it is viewed from the NORTHERN hemisphere, and if you look carefully, you will see Australia appearing upside-down on the picture of the earth, indicating that we are looking at the South pole, which means that the moon phases are inverted – the crescent shadow should appear on the LEFT SIDE of the earth – not the right. This should be proof that the picture is not real – apparently the guy who checked the moon chart for that date was not aware of the inverted moon issue! Anyone care to verify my reasoning in this?

  43. Joseph Starbuck

    Slight correction – the crescent shadow on the moon would be observed from the perspective of the SELENE, on the “dark” side of the moon.

  44. Joseph Starbuck

    In case you had trouble following what I wrote, here’s a very simple way to see it: first, go to the following link:
    There you will find a picture that shows the four main phases of the moon from the perspective of the Southern Hemisphere. According to any moon-phase chart, on the 14th of Nov. 2007, the moon was just passing a New Moon, and was on its way to a first quarter. At that position, when viewing the moon, the light is on the left, and when viewing the earth from the moon, the light is on the right (so the earth’s shadow is on the left). When looking at the rising-earth photo, it is 100% clear that Australia is inverted, so we are definitely looking at the earth from a South-pole orientation. And it is 100% clear that the growing shadow on the earth is ON THE RIGHT, not the left where it should be.

  45. Joseph Starbuck

    I found the answer – the image I was looking at is of an “EARTH-SETTING” not “EARTH-RISING”, which means we are looking at the orbiter as it swings back under the moon and heads away from the earth. Well, I’m glad the pictures now look correct!

  46. average guy

    Aurora Borealis From Space

    Astronaut Donald Pettit created this video out of dozens of still photographs he took from the International Space Station. Kinda makes the eight months of training and many millions of dollars it takes to get up there as a private citizen seem worth it.

    hmm.. is that stars i see from a private picture from space… couldn’t be.

  47. average guy

    average guy Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation. …lol

  48. bob hope

    What are you guys smoking? This photo looks nothing like apollo 11’s. The lower half of the earth is visable, the surface is not all clouds, and the shadows on the edges of the moon make an uneven horizon. This definitvely disproves the moon landing. I’m sure other facts could be pointed out, but if its not completely obvious already. How come we can fly 7 missions to the moon in 4 years but can’t afford one more for another 45years? If moon travel is possible, Why are they wasting there time with the I.S.S.. A fixed biosphere makes more sense than a wanabe space station only 200 miles up. Woopdi doo!


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