Earth never looked so good

Composite image from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter about 80 miles over the far side of the moon


In this amazing image from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), Earth appears to rise over the Moon’s lunar horizon.

The center of the Earth is just off the coast of Liberia and the large tan area seen here in the upper right is the Sahara Desert, and just beyond is Saudi Arabia. The Atlantic and Pacific coasts of South America are visible to the left. On the moon, we get a glimpse of the crater Compton, which is located just beyond the eastern limb of the moon, on the lunar farside.

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"The image is simply stunning," Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for LRO at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement. "The image of the Earth evokes the famous 'Blue Marble' image taken by Astronaut Harrison Schmitt during Apollo 17, 43 years ago, which also showed Africa prominently in the picture."

This image was composed from a series of images taken Oct. 12, when LRO was about 83 miles above the moon's farside crater Compton. To take the image, the spacecraft had to be rolled to the side while the LRO was traveling faster than 3,580 miles per hour relative to the lunar surface below the spacecraft.

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NASA's first Earthrise image was taken with the Lunar Orbiter 1 spacecraft in 1966 and its most iconic was taken by the crew of the Apollo 8 mission as the spacecraft entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve Dec. 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts -- Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders -- held a live broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft.

Said Lovell, "The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth."