Half the world will be able to see a total lunar eclipse this week — but nobody will have the vantage point that Europe's SMART-1 spacecraft had six years ago when it witnessed a similar event from deep space.
Lunar eclipses occur when Earth gets directly between the sun and the moon, covering up the face of the full moon with its shadow. On Oct. 28, 2004, SMART-1's AMIE camera captured a series of images showing the shadow's movement across the moon, as well as Earth's sunlit side. The 3-foot-wide spacecraft was at the far end of its widely looping orbit around the moon — 410,000 miles from the moon and 180,000 miles from Earth.
The sizes of Earth and the moon in these pictures reflect the relative sizes that SMART-1 saw, but the two celestial bodies couldn't be seen in the same frame. This montage combines shots that were taken separately.
Although no one will be watching this week's eclipse from deep space, the crew aboard the International Space Station should get a good view from low Earth orbit. And millions can see the event from Earth. North Americans will have the best seats in the house. The shadow starts its passage at around 12:30 a.m. ET Tuesday, and the total eclipse reaches its peak at 3:17 a.m. ET Tuesday.
For more about the lunar eclipse, which nearly coincides with the solstice that marks the start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, click on these links:
- The 12 stages of the total lunar eclipse
- See the eclipse from your backyard
- This eclipse is the best one until 2014
- Interactive: What causes a lunar eclipse?
- Why an eclipse paints the moon red
For more views of Earth from space, check out these past offerings from our Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar. We've also included links to other online Advent calendars that have been serving up space images daily since the beginning of the month:
- The Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar so far
- Door 1 for Dec. 1: Shuttle in spotlight
- Door 2 for Dec. 2: 'Alien' lake seen from space
- Door 3 for Dec. 3: Egypt's river of light
- Door 4 for Dec. 4: Tallest building reaches for the sky
- Door 5 for Dec. 5: Russia's dazzling delta
- Door 6 for Dec. 6: Space skipper vs. the world
- Door 7 for Dec. 7: Pearl Harbor from the heavens
- Door 8 for Dec. 8: Listening for E.T.
- Door 9 for Dec. 9: Blast from the past
- Door 10 for Dec. 10: Volcano caught in the act
- Door 11 for Dec. 11: Chronicling climate change
- Door 12 for Dec. 12: Happy St. Lucy's Day
- Door 13 for Dec. 13: Viva Las Vegas
- Door 14 for Dec. 14: Don't wake the volcanoes
- Door 15 for Dec. 15: Stairways to heaven
- Door 16 for Dec. 16: White Christmas in the Midwest
- Door 17 for Dec. 17: Tracks in the sky
- Door 18 for Dec. 18: Amelia Earhart's final resting place?
- The Big Picture at Boston.com: Hubble Advent calendar
- Planetary Society: Solar system Advent calendar
- Zooniverse Advent calendar
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