Friday, November 16, 2007

Satellite captures Earth 'rising' and 'setting'

Series of five images of the Earth 'setting' as seen from the Moon - taken by the Kaguya probe.

A Japanese satellite has captured the first high definition images of the Earth from the moon.

Footage taken from 62 miles above the lunar surface shows the most-detailed yet pictures of an "Earth-rise" and "Earth-set" above the moon's horizon.

Still photographs from the sequences show our planet in brilliant blue with Antarctica at the top, Australia in light brown on the left and the Middle East in the lower right section.

The images were taken last week using a high definition (HD) television camera, developed specially for use in space by the Japanese national broadcaster NHK.

This was mounted on Kaguya, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) probe which is carrying out the most extensive investigation of the moon since the Nasa Apollo missions.

Earth-rises and earth-sets can only be seen from satellites travelling in orbit around the moon as our planet is always seen in the same position from the lunar surface.

The Kaguya probe, named after a princess in a Japanese fairytale, was around 240,000 miles from Earth when it captured the footage.

The first ever image of the Earth was taken in 1959 by the US satellite Explorer VI while it was passing over the Pacific Ocean.

Kaguya, which launched in mid-September, will produce high resolution surface and gravity maps, observe lunar magnetic fields and search for water ice during its one-year mission.

Japan has been expanding its space operations, and has set a goal of sending an astronaut to the moon by 2020.

The onboard high definition camera of the moon explorer "KAGUYA," which is under initial functional verification, successfully acquired the world's first high definition images of an "Earth-rise" and "Earth-set." It was also the world's first HD images of the Earth from about 380,000 km away in space.