Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA's LRO Mission and North America to Experience Total Lunar Eclipse

09.04.2014

When people in North America look up at the sky in the early morning hours of April 15, they can expect the moon to look a little different.

A total lunar eclipse is expected at this time, a phenomenon that occurs when the Earth, moon and sun are in perfect alignment, blanketing the moon in the Earth's shadow.


Artist concept of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter with Apollo mission imagery of the moon in the background. Image Credit: NASA

Although lunar eclipses happen multiple times in a year during a full moon, this eclipse will be a particularly unusual viewing opportunity for North America. Since the Earth's Western Hemisphere will be facing the moon during the eclipse, the continent will be in prime position to view it from start to finish. In addition, the eclipse will coincide with nighttime in North America. The entire continent won't be able to witness a full lunar eclipse in its entirety again until 2019.

"Sometimes they'll happen and you'll have to be somewhere else on Earth to see them," said Noah Petro, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter deputy project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Most [residents] of the continental United States will be able to see the whole thing."

... more about:
»Eclipse »LRO »NASA »Orbiter »Reconnaissance »Space »lunar »orbits »spacecraft »watch

For those who are awake to watch the eclipse, which is scheduled to begin around 2:00 a.m. EDT and last over three hours, Petro said there would be several changes people can witness. When the moon first enters the Earth's partial shadow, know as the penumbra, a dark shadow will begin creeping across the moon. This will give the illusion that the moon is changing phases in a matter of minutes instead of weeks.

"Eventually there will be a chunk of darkness eating the moon," Petro said.  

At the eclipse's peak, around 3:45 a.m. EDT, the moon will enter the Earth's full shadow, the umbra. At this stage, the Earth's atmosphere will scatter the sun's red visible light, the same process that turns the sky red at sunset. As a result, the red light will reflect off the moon's surface, casting a reddish rust hue over it.

"It's a projection of all the Earth's sunsets and sunrises onto the moon," Petro said. "It's a very subtle effect, and if any part of the moon is illuminated in the sun, you can't really see it."

Although lunar eclipses are fairly common, Petro said they don't happen every month. Because the moon's orbit is tilted, it doesn't pass through the Earth's shadow each time it orbits the planet. This is the same reason why solar eclipses—which occur when the Earth passes through the moon's shadow—don't occur monthly.

Petro said lunar eclipses are a special treat people should take the opportunity to watch, even if it is at a late hour.

"They don't happen all the time, and the sky has to be clear," Petro said. "It really gives you a chance to look at the moon changing."  

In addition to being a spectacle for North America residents, Petro said NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) team would be paying particular attention to this eclipse. The LRO mission, which is currently orbiting the moon, will be plunged into darkness for an extended period during the eclipse. Because the spacecraft's batteries need sunlight to charge, it will be forced to run without recharging longer than usual.

"The spacecraft will be going straight from the moon's shadow to the Earth's shadow while it orbits during the eclipse," Petro said.

While this isn't the first time LRO has orbited the moon during an eclipse, its past orbits have allowed it to pass into Earth's shadow only for a short period. This time, the spacecraft will have to pass through the complete shadow twice before the eclipse ends. However, Petro said the team expects the spacecraft to make it through the eclipse without a hitch.

"We're taking precautions to make sure everything is fine," Petro said. "We're turning off the instruments and will monitor the spacecraft every few hours when it's visible from Earth."

Although LRO would be forced to shut down its instruments for this eclipse, Petro said other lunar eclipses are a great opportunity for the mission to study how the lunar surface cools during these events, giving insight into the materials making up the surface.

While people watch the moon change in the sky April 15, the LRO team will be ready.

"For quite a while, people in LRO have been analyzing what's going to happen during this eclipse," Petro said. "We'll make sure the world knows LRO survived with no problems."

For more information about NASA's LRO mission, visit:

www.nasa.gov/lro

Claire Saravia
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Rob Gutro | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/north-america-to-experience-total-lunar-eclipse/#.U0RfQVdduac

Further reports about: Eclipse LRO NASA Orbiter Reconnaissance Space lunar orbits spacecraft watch

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms
17.02.2017 | Universität Konstanz

nachricht New functional principle to generate the „third harmonic“
16.02.2017 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Switched-on DNA

20.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Second cause of hidden hearing loss identified

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

Prospect for more effective treatment of nerve pain

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>