Lunar Probe Experiences Lunar Eclipse
17 April 2014


This illustration shows the LRO spacecraft in orbit around the Moon.
 

Credit: NASA

On 15 April 2014, a total eclipse of the Moon was visible in most of the Western Hemisphere, including the Americas, the Pacific Ocean, east Australia, and New Zealand.

Lunar eclipses are among the most beautiful natural phenomena. They occur when the Moon passes through Earth’s immense shadow. If the Moon is totally covered by the darker, inner part of Earth’s shadow, the umbra, the eclipse will be total. If only part of the lunar disc falls within the umbra, the eclipse will be partial.

When the Moon passes through the umbra, it glows in various fascinating reddish hues, due to reddened sunlight, refracted in Earth’s atmosphere.

Interestingly, during the 15 April lunar eclipse, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), currently in orbit around the Moon, also glided into Earth’s shadow. LRO program scientists were concerned about the long interval LRO stayed in Earth’s shadow, as the spacecraft is powered by solar energy. This was not the first time LRO plunges into Earth’s shadow. However, in previous lunar eclipses, LRO’s paths took it into Earth's shadow only for a brief period. The last eclipse, the spacecraft had to pass through the terrestrial shadow twice, before the eclipse ended. But the LRO team expected the spacecraft will make it through the darkness without a glitch.

LRO was launched toward the Moon, on 18 June 2009, on a powerful Atlas V rocket, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It entered a lunar orbit, on 23 June 2009. The mission’s main object is to produce a comprehensive atlas of the Moon's terrains and resources, necessary to design and build a lunar outpost.  

References
NASA
LRO Website
http://lunar.gsfc.nasa.gov/index.html
NASA Eclipse Website
http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEplot/LEplot2001/LE2014Apr15T.pdf
Lunar Eclipses and LRO
http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a010000/a011500/a011514/index.html
Wikipedia

Aymen Mohamed Ibrahem
Senior Astronomy Specialist
 
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