Earth, Moon, and Sun

Did you know that the Japanese have a space ship orbiting the Moon right now? Known variously as SELENE or Kaguya, it is, as we speak, floating around the Moon, taking gorgeous high definition video. So much of our mental imagery of the lunar landscape is based on Apollo video from the early 1970s, grainy snowy pictures from another world. But video technology, happily, has gotten much much better in the intervening 25 years. And we all get to profit from Japan’s exploration.

This particular video is only YouTube quality, but it’s still mesmerizing. A tiny blue and white Earth rises over the lunar horizon at about a minute and a half into it. You may be impatient to get to the “good part”, but I beg you to press play and let it go at its own speed. There’s no soundtrack, there’s no artificial speed-up. It’s just what you would see out your window, silent as death, endlessly rolling. When our little home comes quietly calling, it is lovely to behold.

Stick around for the whole show, because at around six minutes, you see the Earth (larger this time) sink into the darkness astern your moonship.

When you’ve tired of Earth and Moon, follow this APOD link to look at the video of a massive solar flare. It makes our pale planet seem all the more fragile. I look at these astronomical videos and I have to keep telling myself: these are real. There are no special effects involved. No special effects beyond, you know, flinging delicate camera equipment into the frozen nameless void and whispering the pictures back to our breakfast tables. I guess that’s special.

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