Astronomy

Are there pictures from a solar eclipse of the earth taken from a moon landing unit or orbiter?

Are there pictures from a solar eclipse of the earth taken from a moon landing unit or orbiter?


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Did any moon landing vehicle or orbiter took pictures of a solar eclipse happening on the earth, i.e. the moon's shadow on the earth? (Alternatively from other spacecraft showing the whole globe). A link to those pictures would be nice.


Such images are most readily available from full-time Earth-observing satellites.

The DSCOVR climate observatory sees the Earth from Lagrange point L1, 3.9 lunar distances toward the Sun. Its EPIC camera captured sequences of images half an hour apart for the solar eclipses of 2016-03-09 and 2017-08-21.

Geostationary satellites orbit 0.11 lunar distance from the center of the Earth. The CIMSS group at Wisconsin has a collection of various weather satellites' images of several eclipses.

A lunar point of view would fall between these two examples, qualitatively more like the former than the latter.


Oddly enough, yes-ish. quoting from a space.SE post (pictures there),

Yes, well, kind of; JAXA's Kaguya (SELENE) took images of the Earth during the February 10, 2009 penumbral lunar eclipse from lunar orbit of roughly 50 km altitude, using its HDTV camera

There have been cases of Earth-orbiting satellites catching images too. For example, space.com has an article about the Proba-2 satellite doing so.


1 /60 Amazing NASA Space Images - In pictures

This 1969 photograph of the eclipse of the sun was taken with a 16mm motion picture camera from the Apollo 12 spacecraft during its trans-Earth journey home from the moon. The fascinating view was created when the Earth moved directly between the sun and the Apollo 12 spacecraft

Astronaut Bruce McCandless II photographed 320 ft from the Space Shuttle Challenger during the first untethered EVA, made possible by his nitrogen jet propelled backpack (Manned Manuevering Unit or MMU) in 1984

The brilliant tapestry of young stars flaring to life resemble a glittering fireworks display in the 25th anniversary NASA Hubble Space Telescope image

Space shuttle Atlantis blasts off from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida in 2011. This lift off is the last in the 30-year-old shuttle program

The first teklevision image of Earth from a weather satellite taken by the TIROS-1 satellite in 1960

The Echo 2 satellite in 1960. Once the balloon was launched into orbit, a prerecorded message from President Dwight Eisenhower was transmitted from California and heard with clarity in New Jersey

The original seven Mercury astronauts and pioneers in human space exsploration pose in their silver spacesuits in 1961

President John F. Kennedy calls for a moon landing in 1961 durning Congress

Astronaut John Glenn climbs into his Friendship 7 space capsule in the Atlas rocket in 1962. Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth

A close-up view of an astronaut's bootprint in the lunar soil, photographed with a 70mm lunar surface camera during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity (EVA) on the moon in 1969

Man's first landing on the Moon. Lunar Module, "Eagle," touched down gently on the Sea of Tranquility on the east side of the Moon. Astronauts Edwin Aldrin and Neil Armstrong wre the first men to walk on the Moon in 1969

After an 8 month voyage to Mars, Mariner 4 makes the first flyby of the Mars (the red planet) in 1965 and became the first spacecraft to take close-up photographs of another planet

Astronaut Edward H. White II, pilot on the Gemini-Titan 4 spaceflight, is shown during his egress from the spacecraft. His face is covered by a shaded visor to protect him from the unfiltered rays of the sun. White became the first American astronaut to walk in space. He remained outside the spacecraft for 21 minutes during the third revolution of the Gemini-4 mission in 1965

The X-15 completed 199 flights to the edge of space from 1959-1968. Neil Armstrong was one of it's budding young pilots


  • For pictures, which appeared as picture of the day on the Main Page, just add the date in YYYY-MM-DD format to the list (please keep the list sorted).
  • For other pictures, use following parameters:

where N is the next unused number.

The transit of Mercury across the face of the Sun that took place in November 2006 . Mercury appears as a black speck in the Sun's lower center-right region the black areas on the left and right edges are sunspots. The transit was first recorded by French astronomer Pierre Gassendi on November 7, 1631. Transits of Mercury take place in May or November, at intervals of 7, 13, or 33 years, with the next one scheduled to appear in May 2016 .

A picture of the 2012 transit of Venus by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, from 36,000 km (22,000 mi) above the Earth. A transit of Venus across the Sun takes place when the planet Venus passes directly between the Sun and Earth. It is one of the rarest predictable astronomical phenomena and happens in pairs eight years apart that are separated from each other by 105 or 121 years. The last transit before 2012 was in 2004, and the next pair of transits will occur in 2117 and 2125.

A solar flare, a sudden flash of brightness observed over the Sun's surface or the solar limb which is interpreted as a large energy release, recorded on August 31, 2012. Such flares are often, but not always, followed by a colossal coronal mass ejection in this instance, the ejection traveled at over 900 miles (1,400 km) per second.

The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is a nearly perfect sphere of plasma, heated by nuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium in its core, with internal convective motion that generates a magnetic field via a dynamo process. It is by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth. Its diameter is about 1.39 million kilometres (860,000 miles) or 109 times that of Earth, while its mass is about 330,000 times that of Earth. It accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. Roughly three-quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen the rest is mostly helium, with much smaller quantities of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon and iron. This false-color photograph of the Sun was taken by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument on NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) at a wavelength of 304 angstroms, in the extreme ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma, heated to incandescence by nuclear-fusion reactions in its core, radiating the energy mainly as visible light and infrared radiation. It is by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth. Its diameter is about 1.39 million kilometres (860,000 mi), or 109 times that of Earth. Its mass is about 330,000 times that of Earth, and accounts for about 99.86 percent of the total mass of the Solar System. Roughly three-quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen the rest is mostly helium, with much smaller quantities of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon, and iron. This diagram illustrates the general structure of the Sun, with all features drawn to scale.

Mercury is the smallest and closest to the Sun of the eight planets in the Solar System. It has no known natural satellites. The planet is named after the Roman deity Mercury, the messenger to the gods.

A radar image of the surface of Venus, centered at 180 degrees east longitude. This composite image was created from mapping by the Magellan probe, supplemented by data gathered by the Pioneer orbiter, with simulated hues based on color images recorded by Venera 13 and 14. No probe has been able to survive more than a few hours on Venus's surface, which is completely obscured by clouds, because the atmospheric pressure is some 90 times that of the Earth's, and its surface temperature is around 450 °C (842 °F).

"Pale Blue Dot" is the name given to this 1990 photo of Earth taken from Voyager 1 when its vantage point reached the edge of the Solar System, a distance of roughly 3.7 billion miles (6 billion kilometres). Earth can be seen as a blueish-white speck approximately halfway down the brown band to the right. The light band over Earth is an artifact of sunlight scattering in the camera's lens, resulting from the small angle between Earth and the Sun. Carl Sagan came up with the idea of turning the spacecraft around to take a composite image of the Solar System. Six years later, he reflected, "All of human history has happened on that tiny pixel, which is our only home."

The aurora australis, as seen from the International Space Station. Aurorae are natural light displays in the sky caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude thermosphere. The particles originate in the magnetosphere and solar wind and, on Earth, are directed by Earth's magnetic field into the atmosphere.

The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station in low Earth orbit, run as a joint project by the American, Russian, Japanese, European, and Canadian space agencies. Its first component was sent into orbit in 1998, and it has been inhabited continuously since 2000. The ISS consists of pressurised modules, external trusses, solar arrays, and other components, which have been launched by Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets, and American Space Shuttles. It serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields. This photograph, taken in 2011 by Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli from a departing Russian Soyuz spacecraft, shows the ISS and the docked Space Shuttle Endeavour.

Full moon is a lunar phase that occurs when the moon is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun, and when the three celestial bodies are aligned as closely as possible to a straight line. At this time, as seen by viewers on earth, the hemisphere of the moon that is facing the earth (the near side) is fully illuminated by the sun and appears round. Only during a full moon is the opposite hemisphere of the moon, which is not visible from earth (the far side), completely unilluminated.

Astronaut Eugene Cernan makes a short test drive of the lunar rover (officially, Lunar Roving Vehicle or LRV) during the early part of the first Apollo 17 extravehicular activity. The LRV was only used in the last three Apollo missions, but it performed without any major problems and allowed the astronauts to cover far more ground than in previous missions. All three LRVs were abandoned on the Moon.

An animation of the phases of the Moon. As the Moon revolves around the Earth, the Sun lights the Moon from a different side, creating the different phases. In the image, the Moon appears to get bigger as well as "wobble" slightly. Tidal locking synchronizes the Moon's rotation period on its axis to match its orbital period around the earth. These two periods nearly cancel each other out, except that the Moon's orbit is elliptical. This causes its orbital motion to speed up when closer to the Earth, and slow down when farther away, causing the Moon's apparent diameter to change, as well as the wobbling motion observed.

Lunar distance is a measurement of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. This diagram shows the distance, averaging 384,400 km (238,900 mi), to scale, as well as the Earth and the Moon (scroll to see the entire image).

The Moon is the only natural satellite of Earth and the fifth largest moon in the Solar System. Owing to its synchronous rotation around Earth, the Moon always shows essentially the same face: its near side, which is marked by dark volcanic maria, as well as the bright ancient crustal highlands and the prominent impact craters. However, variations in the Moon's orbital speed due to its orbital eccentricity cause a libration of several degrees of longitude the alignment of the Moon's orbital plane causes a similar libration in latitude. The Moon was first reached in September 1959 by the Soviet Union's unmanned Luna 2, followed by the first successful soft landing by Luna 9 in 1966. The United States Apollo program achieved the only manned lunar missions to date, including Apollo 8 in 1968, the first manned orbital mission, as well as Apollo 11, the first of six manned landings between 1969 and 1972. This picture shows the near side of the Moon close to its greatest northern ecliptic latitude, so the southern craters are especially prominent. Tranquility Base, Apollo 11's landing site, is located near the mid-right in the photograph.

Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun, is named after the Roman god of war because of its blood red color. Mars has two small, oddly-shaped moons, Phobos and Deimos, named after the sons of the Greek god Ares. At some point in the future Phobos will be broken up by gravitational forces.

Victoria Crater, an impact crater at Meridiani Planum, near the equator of Mars. The crater is approximately 800 meters (half a mile) in diameter. It has a distinctive scalloped shape to its rim, caused by erosion and downhill movement of crater wall material. Layered sedimentary rocks are exposed along the inner wall of the crater, and boulders that have fallen from the crater wall are visible on the crater floor. The floor of the crater is occupied by a striking field of sand dunes. The Mars rover Opportunity can be seen in this image, at roughly the "ten o'clock" position along the rim of the crater.

False-color Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image of a side of the Chasma Boreale, a canyon in the polar ice cap of the Planum Boreum (north pole of Mars). Light browns are layers of surface dust, greys and blues are layers of water and carbon dioxide ice. Regular geometric cracking is indicative of higher concentrations of water ice. The Planum Boreum's permanent ice cap has a maximum depth of 3 km (1.9 mi). It is roughly 1200 km (750 mi) in diameter, an area equivalent to about 1½ times the size of Texas. The Chasma Boreale is up to 100 km (62.5 mi) wide and features scarps up to 2 km (1.25 mi) high. For a comparison, the Grand Canyon is approximately 1.6 km (1 mi) deep in some places and 446 km (279 mi) long but only up to 24 km (15 mi) wide.

A 360° panorama taken during the descent from the summit of Husband Hill, one of the Columbia Hills in Gusev crater, Mars. This stitched image is composed of 405 individual images taken with five different filters on the panoramic camera over the course of five Martian days.

A composite image of Olympus Mons on Mars, the tallest known volcano and mountain in the Solar System. This image was created from black-and-white imagery from the USGS's Mars Global Digital Image Mosaic and color imagery acquired from the 1978 visit of Viking 1.

An animated image showing the apparent retrograde motion of Mars in 2003 as seen from Earth. All the true planets appear to periodically switch direction as they cross the sky. Because Earth completes its orbit in a shorter period of time than the planets outside its orbit, we periodically overtake them, like a faster car on a multi-lane highway. When this occurs, the planet will first appear to stop its eastward drift, and then drift back toward the west. Then, as Earth swings past the planet in its orbit, it appears to resume its normal motion west to east.

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and is known as the "Red Planet" due to its reddish appearance as seen from Earth. The planet is named after Mars, the Roman god of war. A terrestrial planet, Mars has a thin atmosphere and surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the volcanoes, valleys, deserts and polar ice caps of the Earth. The planet has the highest mountain in the Solar System, Olympus Mons, as well as the largest canyon, Valles Marineris. Mars's rotation period and seasonal cycles are also similar to those of the Earth. Of all the planets in the Solar System other than Earth, Mars is the most likely to harbour liquid water and perhaps life. There are ongoing investigations assessing Mars's past potential for habitability, as well as the possibility of extant life. Future astrobiology missions are planned, including NASA's Mars 2020 rover and the European Space Agency (ESA)'s Rosalind Franklin rover. In November 2016, NASA reported finding a large amount of underground ice in the Utopia Planitia region of the planet. The volume of water detected has been estimated to be equivalent to the volume of water in Lake Superior. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped. This picture is a true-colour image of Mars, taken from a distance of about 240,000 kilometres (150,000 mi) by the OSIRIS instrument on ESA's Rosetta spacecraft, during its February 2007 flyby of the planet. The image was generated using OSIRIS's orange (red), green and blue filters.

Although Mars is smaller than the Earth and 50 percent farther from the Sun, its climate has important similarities with the Earth, such as the presence of polar ice caps, seasonal changes and observable weather patterns. This image shows layered deposits in Planum Boreum, in the north polar region of Mars, which formed from a 3-kilometre-thick (2 mi) stack of dusty water-ice layers about 1,000 km (600 mi) across. The layers record information about the climate of the planet stretching back several million years. Erosion has created scarps and troughs that expose the layering. The tan-colored layers are the dusty water ice of the polar layered deposits, however a section of bluish layers is visible below them. These bluish layers contain sand-sized rock fragments that likely formed a large polar dunefield before the overlying dusty ice was deposited. This photograph, depicting an area approximately 1.3 km (0.8 mi) across, was captured by the HiRISE camera on board NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Phobos, the larger and closer of the two moons of Mars, as seen from about 6,000 kilometres (3,700 mi) away. A small, irregularly shaped object, Phobos orbits about 9,377 km (5,827 mi) from the center of Mars, closer to its primary than any other planetary moon. The illuminated part of Phobos seen in the images is about 21 km (13 mi) across. The most prominent feature in the images is the large crater Stickney in the lower right. With a diameter of 9 km (5.6 mi), it is the largest feature on Phobos.

101955 Bennu is a carbonaceous asteroid discovered by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research project in 1999. Bennu has a roughly spheroidal shape, an effective diameter of about 484 m (1,588 ft), and a rough, boulder-strewn surface. It is a potentially hazardous object, with a cumulative 1-in-2,700 chance of impacting Earth between 2175 and 2199. It is named after the Bennu, an ancient Egyptian bird deity associated with the Sun, creation, and rebirth. This mosaic image of Bennu consists of twelve PolyCam images taken by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 24 km (15 mi). The primary goal of the mission is to collect a sample from the asteroid's surface, which is scheduled to take place on October 20, 2020, and return the sample to Earth for analysis.

False-color detail of Jupiter's atmosphere, imaged by Voyager 1, showing the Great Red Spot and a passing white oval. The wavy cloud pattern to the left of the Red Spot is a region of extraordinarily complex and variable wave motion. To give a sense of Jupiter's scale, the white oval storm directly below the Great Red Spot is approximately the same diameter as Earth.

This polar map of Jupiter, taken by the Cassini orbiter as it neared Jupiter during a flyby on its way to Saturn, is the most detailed global color map of the planet ever produced. The south pole is in the center of the map and the equator is at the edge. The map shows a variety of colorful cloud features, including parallel reddish-brown and white bands, the Great Red Spot, multi-lobed chaotic regions, white ovals, and many small vortexes. Many clouds appear in streaks and waves due to continual stretching and folding by Jupiter's winds and turbulence.

An animated view of Voyager I's approach to Jupiter. One frame of this image was taken each Jupiter day (approximately 10 hours) between January 6 and February 9, 1979, as the space probe flew from 58 million to 31 million kilometers from Jupiter during that time. The small, round, dark spots appearing in some frames are the shadows cast by the moons passing between Jupiter and the Sun, while the small, white flashes around the planet, are the moons themselves.

A 14-frame clip showing the atmosphere of Jupiter as viewed from the NASA probe Cassini. Taken over a span of 24 Jupiter rotations between October 31 and November 9, 2000, this clip shows various patterns of motion across the planet. The Great Red Spot rotates counterclockwise, and the uneven distribution of its high haze is obvious. To the east (right) of the Red Spot, oval storms, like ball bearings, roll over and pass each other. East-west bands adjacent to each other move at different rates. Strings of small storms rotate around northern-hemisphere ovals. The large grayish-blue "hot spots" at the northern edge of the white Equatorial Zone change over time as they proceed eastward across the planet. Ovals in the north rotate counter to those in the south. Small, very bright features appear quickly and randomly in turbulent regions, possibly lightning storms. The smallest visible features at the equator are about 600 km (370 miles) across.

A diagram of Jupiter showing a model of the planet's interior, with a rocky core overlaid by a deep layer of liquid metallic hydrogen and an outer layer predominantly of molecular hydrogen. Jupiter's true interior composition is uncertain. For instance, the core may have shrunk as convection currents of hot liquid metallic hydrogen mixed with the molten core and carried its contents to higher levels in the planetary interior. Furthermore, there is no clear physical boundary between the hydrogen layers—with increasing depth the gas increases smoothly in temperature and density, ultimately becoming liquid.

An animation of an eruption by the Tvashtar Paterae volcanic region on the innermost of Jupiter's Galilean moons, Io. The ejecta plume is 330 km (205 mi) high, though only its uppermost half is visible in this image, as its source lies over the moon's limb on its far side. This animation consists of a sequence of five images taken by NASA's New Horizons probe on March 1, 2007, over the course of eight minutes from 23:50 UTC.

A true-color image of Io, one of the moons of Jupiter, taken by the Galileo spacecraft. The dark spot just left of the center is the erupting volcano Prometheus. The whitish plains on either side of it are coated with volcanically deposited sulfur dioxide frost, whereas the yellower regions contain a higher proportion of sulfur.

Realistic-color mosaic of images of Jupiter's moon Europa taken by NASA's Jupiter orbiter Galileo in 1995 and 1998. This view of the moon's anti-Jovian hemisphere shows numerous lineae, linear features created via a tectonic process in which crustal plates of water ice floating on a subsurface ocean (kept warm by tidal flexing) shift in relative position. Reddish regions are areas where the ice has a higher mineral content. The north polar region is at right. (Geologic features are annotated in Commons.)

Saturn eclipsing the Sun, as seen by the Cassini orbiter. Individual rings seen in this image include (in order, starting from most distant): E ring, Pallene ring (visible very faintly in an arc just below Saturn), G ring, Janus/Epimetheus ring (faint), F ring (narrow brightest feature), Main rings (A,B,C), and D ring (bluish, nearest Saturn). Interior to the G ring and above the brighter main rings is the pale dot of Earth.

The Day the Earth Smiled refers to the date July 19, 2013, on which the Cassini spacecraft turned to image Saturn, its entire ring system, and the Earth from a position where Saturn eclipsed the Sun. Cassini imaging team leader and planetary scientist Carolyn Porco called for all the world's people to reflect on humanity's place in the cosmos, to marvel at life on Earth, and to look up and smile in celebration. The final mosaic, shown here, was released four months later and includes planets Earth, Mars, and Venus, and a host of Saturnian moons.

The Cassini–Huygens space-research project involved a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency to send a probe to study the planet Saturn and its system, including its rings and its natural satellites. This natural-color mosaic image, combining thirty photographs, was taken by the Cassini orbiter over the course of approximately two hours on 23 July 2008 as it panned its wide-angle camera across Saturn and its ring system as the planet approached equinox. Six moons are pictured in the panorama, with the largest, Titan, visible at the bottom left.

This false-color radar image taken by the Cassini orbiter provides convincing evidence for large bodies of liquid methane on Titan. Images taken during a fly-by of the moon on July 22, 2006 show more than 75 large bodies of liquid ranging in diameter from three to 70km (1.9 to 43.6 mi) in the moon's northern hemisphere. Intensity in this colorized image is proportional to how much radar brightness is returned. The lakes, darker than the surrounding terrain, are emphasized here by tinting regions of low backscatter in blue. Radar-brighter regions are shown in tan. Smallest details in this image are about 500 m (1,640 ft) across. On January 3, 2007, NASA announced that scientists have "definitive evidence of lakes filled with methane on Saturn's moon Titan."

Hyperion, a moon of Saturn, is one of the largest highly irregular (non-spherical) bodies in the solar system. Enhanced image processing was used to bring out details and color differences in this photo taken by the Cassini orbiter. Hyperion is entirely saturated with deep, sharp-edged craters that give it the appearance of a giant sponge. Dark material fills the bottom of each crater.

A close-up of 10 km (6.2 mi) high mountains within the equatorial ridge on Saturn's moon Iapetus, photographed by the Cassini orbiter. Above the middle of the image can be seen a place where an impact has exposed the bright ice beneath the dark overlying material. The image was taken on September 10, 2007, with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera at a distance of approximately 3,870 km (2,400 mi) from Iapetus.

False-color mosaic shows the entire hemisphere of Iapetus (1,468 km or 912 mi across) visible from the Cassini orbiter on the outbound leg of its encounter with the two-toned moon of Saturn in September 2007. The central longitude of the trailing hemisphere is 24 degrees to the left of the image's center. It is hypothesized that the moon's two-toned nature is due to the sublimation of various ices evaporated from the warmer parts of the surface.

The most detailed full-disc view of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn and second-largest in the Solar System. The brighter region on the right side and equatorial region is named Xanadu, and the large, dark region at the center is Shangri-la. This image has been processed to reduce the effects of the atmosphere and to sharpen surface features. It has been trimmed to show only the illuminated surface and not the atmosphere above the edge of the moon.

Rhea, at 1,528 kilometres (949 mi) across, is the second-largest moon of Saturn and the ninth largest moon in the Solar System. It was discovered in 1672 by Giovanni Domenico Cassini, who named it after the Titan Rhea of Greek mythology, "mother of the gods". The giant Tirawa impact basin is seen above and to the right of center. Tirawa, and another basin to its southwest, are both covered in impact craters, indicating they are quite ancient.

Saturn's moon Mimas, as imaged by the Cassini spacecraft. It was discovered on 17 September 1789 by English astronomer William Herschel, and was named after Mimas, a son of Gaia in Greek mythology, by Herschel's son John. The large Herschel Crater is the dominating feature of the moon. With a diameter of 396 km (246 mi), it is the smallest astronomical body that is known to be rounded due to self-gravitation.

Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun and the fourth most massive in the Solar System. In this photograph from 1986 the planet appears almost featureless, but recent terrestrial observations have found seasonal changes to be occurring.

Neptune is the eighth and farthest known planet from the Sun in the Solar System. In the Solar System, it is the fourth-largest planet by diameter, the third-most-massive planet and the densest giant planet. Neptune is 17 times the mass of Earth, slightly more massive than its near-twin Uranus. Neptune is denser and physically smaller than Uranus because its greater mass causes more gravitational compression of its atmosphere. Neptune orbits the Sun once every 164.8 years at an average distance of 30.1 au (4.5 billion km 2.8 billion mi). It is named after the Roman god of the sea and has the astronomical symbol ♆, a stylised version of the god Neptune's trident. This picture of Neptune was taken by NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1989, at a range of 4.4 million miles (7.1 million kilometres) from the planet, approximately four days before closest approach. The photograph shows the Great Dark Spot, a storm about the size of Earth, in the centre, while the fast-moving bright feature nicknamed the "Scooter" and the Small Dark Spot can be seen on the western limb. These clouds were seen to persist for as long as the spacecraft's cameras could resolve them.

Pluto is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, a ring of bodies beyond Neptune. Discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, Pluto was originally considered to be the ninth planet from the Sun. Following the discovery of several objects of similar size in the Kuiper belt, its status as a planet was questioned, and in 2006 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) gave a definition of the term "planet" that excluded Pluto. The largest and second-most-massive known dwarf planet in the Solar System, Pluto is primarily made of ice and rock. It is relatively small, with a moderately eccentric and inclined orbit. This photograph of Pluto is a composite of four near-true color images taken by the New Horizons spacecraft in 2015. The most prominent feature in the image, the bright, youthful, nitrogen ice plains of Sputnik Planitia, the left lobe of heart-shaped Tombaugh Regio, is at right center. This contrasts with the darker, more cratered terrain of Cthulhu Macula at lower left.

Comet C/2006 P1 (McNaught), as seen from Swifts Creek, Victoria, Australia. This non-periodic comet, the brightest in over 40 years, was discovered on August 7, 2006 by British-Australian astronomer Robert H. McNaught. It was first visible in the northern hemisphere, reaching perihelion on January 12, 2007 at a distance of 0.17 AU.

Comet Lovejoy is a long-period comet and Kreutz Sungrazer which was discovered in 2011. Named after its discoverer, Terry Lovejoy, the comet was nicknamed "The Great Christmas Comet" owing to it becoming visible near Christmas.

A black-and-white photographic mosaic depicting the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, as photographed by the probe Rosetta. This Jupiter-family comet, which was originally from the Kuiper belt, is about 4.3 km (2.7 mi) across, has a current orbital period of 6.45 years, a rotation period of approximately 12.4 hours, and a maximum velocity of 135,000 km/h (38 km/s 84,000 mph). It was first observed on photographic plates in 1969 by Soviet astronomers Klim Churyumov and Svetlana Gerasimenko, after whom it is named.

C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) is a long-period comet discovered in 2014 by Australian astronomer Terry Lovejoy using a 0.2-meter (8 in) Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope. It was discovered at apparent magnitude 15 in the southern constellation of Puppis, and is the fifth comet discovered by Lovejoy. Its blue-green glow is the result of organic molecules and water released by the comet fluorescing under the harsh UV and optical light of the sun as it passes through space.

A natural satellite is an object that orbits a planet or other body larger than itself and which is not man-made. Such objects are often called moons. Shown here are 28 of the 240 moons of the Solar System, including those of the dwarf planets Pluto and Eris as well as that of asteroid 243 Ida. The Earth is included for scale.

Illustration of the Ptolemaic geocentric model of the Universe (the theory that the Earth is the center of the universe) by Portuguese cosmographer and cartographer Bartolomeu Velho. Taken from his treatise Cosmographia, made in Paris, 1568. Notice the distances of the bodies to the centre of the Earth (left) and the times of revolution, in years (right).

The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains the Solar System, with the name describing the galaxy's appearance from Earth: a hazy band of light seen in the night sky formed from stars that cannot be individually distinguished by the naked eye. The term Milky Way is a translation of the Latin via lactea, from the Greek γαλαξίας κύκλος (galaxías kýklos, 'milky circle'). From Earth, the Milky Way appears as a band because its disk-shaped structure is viewed from within. Galileo Galilei first resolved the band of light into individual stars with his telescope in 1610. Until the early 1920s, most astronomers thought that the Milky Way contained all the stars in the Universe. Following the 1920 Great Debate between the astronomers Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, observations by Edwin Hubble showed that the Milky Way is just one of many galaxies. This picture shows a portion of the Milky Way as seen from Cerro Paranal in Chile, home to the European Southern Observatory (ESO)'s Very Large Telescope, depicting the region spanning the constellations from Sagittarius to Scorpius. The colourful nebulae surrounding Rho Ophiuchi and Antares can be seen to the right, while the dusty lane of the galaxy runs obliquely through the image, dotted with reddish objects such as the Lagoon and Trifid Nebulae. This region of the Milky Way also includes the Galactic Center, likely containing a supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*.

"The Blue Marble" is a famous photograph of Earth. NASA officially credits the image to the entire Apollo 17 crew — Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Jack Schmitt — all of whom took photographic images during the mission. Apollo 17 passed over Africa during daylight hours and Antarctica is also illuminated. The photograph was taken approximately five hours after the spacecraft's launch, while en route to the Moon. Apollo 17, notably, was the last manned lunar mission no humans since have been at a range where taking a "whole-Earth" photograph such as "The Blue Marble" would be possible.

These images are composites of the complete radar image collection obtained by the Magellan mission. The Magellan spacecraft was launched aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis in May 1989 and began mapping the surface of Venus in September 1990. The spacecraft continued to orbit Venus for four years, returning high-resolution images, altimetry, thermal emissions and gravity maps of 98 percent of the surface. Magellan spacecraft operations ended on October 12, 1994, when the radio contact was lost with the spacecraft during its controlled descent into the deeper portions of the Venusian atmosphere.

The solar eclipse of 1999 August 11, as seen from France. This was the most viewed total eclipse in human history, although some areas offered impaired visibility due to adverse weather conditions. The path of the Moon's shadow began in the Atlantic Ocean, before traversing Cornwall, northern France, southern Germany, Austria, Hungary and northern Serbia. Its maximum was in Romania, and it continued across the Black Sea, Turkey, Iran, southern Pakistan and India.

Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun, is named after the Roman god of war because of its blood red color. Mars has two small, oddly-shaped moons, Phobos and Deimos, named after the sons of the Greek god Ares. At some point in the future Phobos will be broken up by gravitational forces. The atmosphere on Mars is 95% carbon dioxide. In 2003 methane was also discovered in the atmosphere. Since methane is an unstable gas, this indicates that there must be (or have been within the last few hundred years) a source of the gas on the planet.

A TRACE image of sunspots on the surface, or photosphere, of the Sun from September 2002, is taken in the far ultraviolet on a relatively quiet day for solar activity. However, the image still shows a large sunspot group visible as a bright area near the horizon. Although sunspots are relatively cool regions on the surface of the Sun, the bright glowing gas flowing around the sunspots have a temperature of over one million °C (1.8 million °F). The high temperatures are thought to be related to the rapidly changing magnetic field loops that channel solar plasma.

Comet Hale–Bopp sails across the sky in the vicinity of Pazin in Istria, Croatia. To the lower right of the comet the Andromeda Galaxy is also faintly visible. The comet was visible to the naked eye for a record 18 months, twice as long as the Great Comet of 1811. At perihelion, it shone brighter than any star in the sky except Sirius, and its two tails stretched 30-40 degrees across the sky. The passage of Hale-Bopp was notable also for inciting a degree of panic about comets not seen for decades. Rumours that the comet was being followed by an alien spacecraft inspired a mass suicide among followers of the Heaven's Gate cult.

Earthrise, the first occasion in which humans saw the Earth seemingly rising above the surface of the Moon, taken during the Apollo 8 mission on December 24, 1968. This view was seen by the crew at the beginning of its fourth orbit around the Moon, although the first photograph taken was in black-and-white. Note that the Earth is in shadow here. A photo of a fully lit Earth would not be taken until the Apollo 17 mission.

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and by far the largest within the Solar System. It is 318 times more massive than Earth, with a diameter 11 times that of Earth, and with a volume 1300 times that of Earth. Its best known feature is the Great Red Spot, a storm larger than Earth, which was first observed by Galileo four centuries ago. This picture, taken by the Cassini orbiter was one of 26 thousand images taken of Jupiter during the course of its flyby and is the most detailed global color portrait of the planet ever produced.


Contents

After the unsuccessful attempt by Luna 1 to land on the Moon in 1959, the Soviet Union performed the first hard Moon landing – "hard" meaning the spacecraft intentionally crashes into the Moon – later that same year with the Luna 2 spacecraft, a feat the U.S. duplicated in 1962 with Ranger 4. Since then, twelve Soviet and U.S. spacecraft have used braking rockets (retrorockets) to make soft landings and perform scientific operations on the lunar surface, between 1966 and 1976. In 1966, the USSR accomplished the first soft landings and took the first pictures from the lunar surface during the Luna 9 and Luna 13 missions. The U.S. followed with five uncrewed Surveyor soft landings.

The Soviet Union achieved the first uncrewed lunar soil sample return with the Luna 16 probe on 24 September 1970. This was followed by Luna 20 and Luna 24 in 1972 and 1976, respectively. Following the failure at launch in 1969 of the first Lunokhod, Luna E-8 No.201, the Luna 17 and Luna 21 were successful uncrewed lunar rover missions in 1970 and 1973.

Many missions were failures at launch. In addition, several uncrewed landing missions achieved the Lunar surface but were unsuccessful, including: Luna 15, Luna 18, and Luna 23 all crashed on landing and the U.S. Surveyor 4 lost all radio contact only moments before its landing.

More recently, other nations have crashed spacecraft on the surface of the Moon at speeds of around 8,000 kilometres per hour (5,000 mph), often at precise, planned locations. These have generally been end-of-life lunar orbiters that, because of system degradations, could no longer overcome perturbations from lunar mass concentrations ("masscons") to maintain their orbit. Japan's lunar orbiter Hiten impacted the Moon's surface on 10 April 1993. The European Space Agency performed a controlled crash impact with their orbiter SMART-1 on 3 September 2006.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) performed a controlled crash impact with its Moon Impact Probe (MIP) on 14 November 2008. The MIP was an ejected probe from the Indian Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter and performed remote sensing experiments during its descent to the lunar surface.

The Chinese lunar orbiter Chang'e 1 executed a controlled crash onto the surface of the Moon on 1 March 2009. The rover mission Chang'e 3 soft-landed on 14 December 2013, as did its successor, Chang'e 4, on 3 January 2019. All crewed and uncrewed soft landings had taken place on the near side of the Moon, until 3 January 2019 when the Chinese Chang'e 4 spacecraft made the first landing on the far side of the Moon. [5]

On 22 February 2019, Israeli private space agency SpaceIL launched spacecraft Beresheet on board a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral, Florida with the intention of achieving a soft landing. SpaceIL lost contact with the spacecraft and it crashed into the surface on 11 April 2019. [6]

Indian Space Research Organization launched Chandrayaan-2 on 22 July 2019 with landing scheduled on 6 September 2019. However, at an altitude of 2.1 km from the Moon a few minutes before soft landing, the lander lost contact with the control room. [7]

A total of twelve men have landed on the Moon. This was accomplished with two US pilot-astronauts flying a Lunar Module on each of six NASA missions across a 41-month period starting 20 July 1969, with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11, and ending on 14 December 1972 with Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt on Apollo 17. Cernan was the last man to step off the lunar surface.

All Apollo lunar missions had a third crew member who remained on board the command module. The last three missions included a drivable lunar rover, the Lunar Roving Vehicle, for increased mobility.

To get to the Moon, a spacecraft must first leave Earth's gravity well currently, the only practical means is a rocket. Unlike airborne vehicles such as balloons and jets, a rocket can continue accelerating in the vacuum outside the atmosphere.

Upon approach of the target moon, a spacecraft will be drawn ever closer to its surface at increasing speeds due to gravity. In order to land intact it must decelerate to less than about 160 kilometres per hour (99 mph) and be ruggedized to withstand a "hard landing" impact, or it must decelerate to negligible speed at contact for a "soft landing" (the only option for humans). The first three attempts by the U.S. to perform a successful hard Moon landing with a ruggedized seismometer package in 1962 all failed. [8] The Soviets first achieved the milestone of a hard lunar landing with a ruggedized camera in 1966, followed only months later by the first uncrewed soft lunar landing by the U.S.

The speed of a crash landing on its surface is typically between 70 and 100% of the escape velocity of the target moon, and thus this is the total velocity which must be shed from the target moon's gravitational attraction for a soft landing to occur. For Earth's Moon, the escape velocity is 2.38 kilometres per second (1.48 mi/s). [9] The change in velocity (referred to as a delta-v) is usually provided by a landing rocket, which must be carried into space by the original launch vehicle as part of the overall spacecraft. An exception is the soft moon landing on Titan carried out by the Huygens probe in 2005. As the moon with the thickest atmosphere, landings on Titan may be accomplished by using atmospheric entry techniques that are generally lighter in weight than a rocket with equivalent capability.

The Soviets succeeded in making the first crash landing on the Moon in 1959. [10] Crash landings [11] may occur because of malfunctions in a spacecraft, or they can be deliberately arranged for vehicles which do not have an onboard landing rocket. There have been many such Moon crashes, often with their flight path controlled to impact at precise locations on the lunar surface. For example, during the Apollo program the S-IVB third stage of the Saturn V rocket as well as the spent ascent stage of the Lunar Module were deliberately crashed on the Moon several times to provide impacts registering as a moonquake on seismometers that had been left on the lunar surface. Such crashes were instrumental in mapping the internal structure of the Moon.

To return to Earth, the escape velocity of the Moon must be overcome for the spacecraft to escape the gravity well of the Moon. Rockets must be used to leave the Moon and return to space. Upon reaching Earth, atmospheric entry techniques are used to absorb the kinetic energy of a returning spacecraft and reduce its speed for safe landing. [ citation needed ] These functions greatly complicate a moon landing mission and lead to many additional operational considerations. Any moon departure rocket must first be carried to the Moon's surface by a moon landing rocket, increasing the latter's required size. The Moon departure rocket, larger moon landing rocket and any Earth atmosphere entry equipment such as heat shields and parachutes must in turn be lifted by the original launch vehicle, greatly increasing its size by a significant and almost prohibitive degree.

The intense efforts devoted in the 1960s to achieving first an uncrewed and then ultimately a human Moon landing become easier to understand in the political context of its historical era. World War II had introduced many new and deadly innovations including blitzkrieg-style surprise attacks used in the invasion of Poland and Finland, and in the attack on Pearl Harbor the V-2 rocket, a ballistic missile which killed thousands in attacks on London and Antwerp and the atom bomb, which killed hundreds of thousands in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the 1950s, tensions mounted between the two ideologically opposed superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union that had emerged as victors in the conflict, particularly after the development by both countries of the hydrogen bomb.

Willy Ley wrote in 1957 that a rocket to the Moon "could be built later this year if somebody can be found to sign some papers". [12] On 4 October 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 as the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth and so initiated the Space Race. This unexpected event was a source of pride to the Soviets and shock to the U.S., who could now potentially be surprise attacked by nuclear-tipped Soviet rockets in under 30 minutes. [ citation needed ] Also, the steady beeping of the radio beacon aboard Sputnik 1 as it passed overhead every 96 minutes was widely viewed on both sides [ citation needed ] as effective propaganda to Third World countries demonstrating the technological superiority of the Soviet political system compared to that of the U.S. This perception was reinforced by a string of subsequent rapid-fire Soviet space achievements. In 1959, the R-7 rocket was used to launch the first escape from Earth's gravity into a solar orbit, the first crash impact onto the surface of the Moon, and the first photography of the never-before-seen far side of the Moon. These were the Luna 1, Luna 2, and Luna 3 spacecraft.

The U.S. response to these Soviet achievements was to greatly accelerate previously existing military space and missile projects and to create a civilian space agency, NASA. Military efforts were initiated to develop and produce mass quantities of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that would bridge the so-called missile gap and enable a policy of deterrence to nuclear war with the Soviets known as mutual assured destruction or MAD. These newly developed missiles were made available to civilians of NASA for various projects (which would have the added benefit of demonstrating the payload, guidance accuracy and reliabilities of U.S. ICBMs to the Soviets).

While NASA stressed peaceful and scientific uses for these rockets, their use in various lunar exploration efforts also had secondary goal of realistic, goal-oriented testing of the missiles themselves and development of associated infrastructure, [ citation needed ] just as the Soviets were doing with their R-7.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, historical records were released to allow the true accounting of Soviet lunar efforts. Unlike the U.S. tradition of assigning a particular mission name in advance of a launch, the Soviets assigned a public "Luna" mission number only if a launch resulted in a spacecraft going beyond Earth orbit. The policy had the effect of hiding Soviet Moon mission failures from public view. If the attempt failed in Earth orbit before departing for the Moon, it was frequently (but not always) given a "Sputnik" or "Cosmos" Earth-orbit mission number to hide its purpose. Launch explosions were not acknowledged at all.

Mission Mass (kg) Launch vehicle Launch date Goal Result
Semyorka – 8K72 23 September 1958 Impact Failure – booster malfunction at T+ 93 s
Semyorka – 8K72 12 October 1958 Impact Failure – booster malfunction at T+ 104 s
Semyorka – 8K72 4 December 1958 Impact Failure – booster malfunction at T+ 254 s
Luna-1 361 Semyorka – 8K72 2 January 1959 Impact Partial success – first spacecraft to reach escape velocity, lunar flyby, solar orbit missed the Moon
Semyorka – 8K72 18 June 1959 Impact Failure – booster malfunction at T+ 153 s
Luna-2 390 Semyorka – 8K72 12 September 1959 Impact Success – first lunar impact
Luna-3 270 Semyorka – 8K72 4 October 1959 Flyby Success – first photos of lunar far side
Semyorka – 8K72 15 April 1960 Flyby Failure – booster malfunction, failed to reach Earth orbit
Semyorka – 8K72 16 April 1960 Flyby Failure – booster malfunction at T+ 1 s
Sputnik-25 Semyorka – 8K78 4 January 1963 Landing Failure – stranded in low Earth orbit
Semyorka – 8K78 3 February 1963 Landing Failure – booster malfunction at T+ 105 s
Luna-4 1422 Semyorka – 8K78 2 April 1963 Landing Failure – lunar flyby at 8,000 kilometres (5,000 mi)
Semyorka – 8K78 21 March 1964 Landing Failure – booster malfunction, failed to reach Earth orbit
Semyorka – 8K78 20 April 1964 Landing Failure – booster malfunction, failed to reach Earth orbit
Cosmos-60 Semyorka – 8K78 12 March 1965 Landing Failure – stranded in low Earth orbit
Semyorka – 8K78 10 April 1965 Landing Failure – booster malfunction, failed to reach Earth orbit
Luna-5 1475 Semyorka – 8K78 9 May 1965 Landing Failure – lunar impact
Luna-6 1440 Semyorka – 8K78 8 June 1965 Landing Failure – lunar flyby at 160,000 kilometres (99,000 mi)
Luna-7 1504 Semyorka – 8K78 4 October 1965 Landing Failure – lunar impact
Luna-8 1550 Semyorka – 8K78 3 December 1965 Landing Failure – lunar impact during landing attempt

In contrast to Soviet lunar exploration triumphs in 1959, success eluded initial U.S. efforts to reach the Moon with the Pioneer and Ranger programs. Fifteen consecutive U.S. uncrewed lunar missions over a six-year period from 1958 to 1964 all failed their primary photographic missions [13] [14] however, Rangers 4 and 6 successfully repeated the Soviet lunar impacts as part of their secondary missions. [15] [16]

Failures included three U.S. attempts [8] [15] [17] in 1962 to hard land small seismometer packages released by the main Ranger spacecraft. These surface packages were to use retrorockets to survive landing, unlike the parent vehicle, which was designed to deliberately crash onto the surface. The final three Ranger probes performed successful high altitude lunar reconnaissance photography missions during intentional crash impacts between 2.62 and 2.68 kilometres per second (9,400 and 9,600 km/h). [18] [19] [20]

Mission Mass (kg) Launch vehicle Launch date Goal Result
Pioneer 0 38 Thor-Able 17 August 1958 Lunar orbit Failure – first stage explosion destroyed
Pioneer 1 34 Thor-Able 11 October 1958 Lunar orbit Failure – software error reentry
Pioneer 2 39 Thor-Able 8 November 1958 Lunar orbit Failure – third stage misfire reentry
Pioneer 3 6 Juno 6 December 1958 Flyby Failure – first stage misfire, reentry
Pioneer 4 6 Juno 3 March 1959 Flyby Partial success – first US craft to reach escape velocity, lunar flyby too far to shoot photos due to targeting error solar orbit
Pioneer P-1 168 Atlas-Able 24 September 1959 Lunar orbit Failure – pad explosion destroyed
Pioneer P-3 168 Atlas-Able 29 November 1959 Lunar orbit Failure – payload shroud destroyed
Pioneer P-30 175 Atlas-Able 25 September 1960 Lunar orbit Failure – second stage anomaly reentry
Pioneer P-31 175 Atlas-Able 15 December 1960 Lunar orbit Failure – first stage explosion destroyed
Ranger 1 306 Atlas – Agena 23 August 1961 Prototype test Failure – upper stage anomaly reentry
Ranger 2 304 Atlas – Agena 18 November 1961 Prototype test Failure – upper stage anomaly reentry
Ranger 3 330 Atlas – Agena 26 January 1962 Landing Failure – booster guidance solar orbit
Ranger 4 331 Atlas – Agena 23 April 1962 Landing Partial success – first U.S. spacecraft to reach another celestial body crash impact – no photos returned
Ranger 5 342 Atlas – Agena 18 October 1962 Landing Failure – spacecraft power solar orbit
Ranger 6 367 Atlas – Agena 30 January 1964 Impact Failure – spacecraft camera crash impact
Ranger 7 367 Atlas – Agena 28 July 1964 Impact Success – returned 4308 photos, crash impact
Ranger 8 367 Atlas – Agena 17 February 1965 Impact Success – returned 7137 photos, crash impact
Ranger 9 367 Atlas – Agena 21 March 1965 Impact Success – returned 5814 photos, crash impact

Pioneer missions

Three different designs of Pioneer lunar probes were flown on three different modified ICBMs. Those flown on the Thor booster modified with an Able upper stage carried an infrared image scanning television system with a resolution of 1 milliradian to study the Moon's surface, an ionization chamber to measure radiation in space, a diaphragm/microphone assembly to detect micrometeorites, a magnetometer, and temperature-variable resistors to monitor spacecraft internal thermal conditions. The first, a mission managed by the United States Air Force, exploded during launch all subsequent Pioneer lunar flights had NASA as the lead management organization. The next two returned to Earth and burned up upon reentry into the atmosphere after achieved maximum altitudes of around 110,000 kilometres (68,000 mi) and 1,450 kilometres (900 mi), far short of the roughly 400,000 kilometres (250,000 mi) required to reach the vicinity of the Moon.

NASA then collaborated with the United States Army's Ballistic Missile Agency to fly two extremely small cone-shaped probes on the Juno ICBM, carrying only photocells which would be triggered by the light of the Moon and a lunar radiation environment experiment using a Geiger-Müller tube detector. The first of these reached an altitude of only around 100,000 kilometres (62,000 mi), serendipitously gathering data that established the presence of the Van Allen radiation belts before reentering Earth's atmosphere. The second passed by the Moon at a distance of more than 60,000 kilometres (37,000 mi), twice as far as planned and too far away to trigger either of the on-board scientific instruments, yet still becoming the first U.S. spacecraft to reach a solar orbit.

The final Pioneer lunar probe design consisted of four "paddlewheel" solar panels extending from a one-meter diameter spherical spin-stabilized spacecraft body equipped to take images of the lunar surface with a television-like system, estimate the Moon's mass and topography of the poles, record the distribution and velocity of micrometeorites, study radiation, measure magnetic fields, detect low frequency electromagnetic waves in space and use a sophisticated integrated propulsion system for maneuvering and orbit insertion as well. None of the four spacecraft built in this series of probes survived launch on its Atlas ICBM outfitted with an Able upper stage.

Following the unsuccessful Atlas-Able Pioneer probes, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory embarked upon an uncrewed spacecraft development program whose modular design could be used to support both lunar and interplanetary exploration missions. The interplanetary versions were known as Mariners lunar versions were Rangers. JPL envisioned three versions of the Ranger lunar probes: Block I prototypes, which would carry various radiation detectors in test flights to a very high Earth orbit that came nowhere near the Moon Block II, which would try to accomplish the first Moon landing by hard landing a seismometer package and Block III, which would crash onto the lunar surface without any braking rockets while taking very high resolution wide-area photographs of the Moon during their descent.

Ranger missions

The Ranger 1 and 2 Block I missions were virtually identical. [21] [22] Spacecraft experiments included a Lyman-alpha telescope, a rubidium-vapor magnetometer, electrostatic analyzers, medium-energy-range particle detectors, two triple coincidence telescopes, a cosmic-ray integrating ionization chamber, cosmic dust detectors, and scintillation counters. The goal was to place these Block I spacecraft in a very high Earth orbit with an apogee of 110,000 kilometres (68,000 mi) and a perigee of 60,000 kilometres (37,000 mi). [21]

From that vantage point, scientists could make direct measurements of the magnetosphere over a period of many months while engineers perfected new methods to routinely track and communicate with spacecraft over such large distances. Such practice was deemed vital to be assured of capturing high-bandwidth television transmissions from the Moon during a one-shot fifteen-minute time window in subsequent Block II and Block III lunar descents. Both Block I missions suffered failures of the new Agena upper stage and never left low Earth parking orbit after launch both burned up upon reentry after only a few days.

The first attempts to perform a Moon landing took place in 1962 during the Rangers 3, 4 and 5 missions flown by the United States. [8] [15] [17] All three Block II missions basic vehicles were 3.1 m high and consisted of a lunar capsule covered with a balsa wood impact-limiter, 650 mm in diameter, a mono-propellant mid-course motor, a retrorocket with a thrust of 5,050 pounds-force (22.5 kN), [15] and a gold- and chrome-plated hexagonal base 1.5 m in diameter. This lander (code-named Tonto) was designed to provide impact cushioning using an exterior blanket of crushable balsa wood and an interior filled with incompressible liquid freon. A 42 kg (56 pounds) 30-centimetre-diameter (0.98 ft) metal payload sphere floated and was free to rotate in a liquid freon reservoir contained in the landing sphere. [ citation needed ]

— John F. Kennedy on the planned Moon landing, 21 November 1962 [23]

This payload sphere contained six silver-cadmium batteries to power a fifty-milliwatt radio transmitter, a temperature sensitive voltage controlled oscillator to measure lunar surface temperatures, and a seismometer designed with sensitivity high enough to detect the impact of a 5 lb (2.3 kg) meteorite on the opposite side of the Moon. Weight was distributed in the payload sphere so it would rotate in its liquid blanket to place the seismometer into an upright and operational position no matter what the final resting orientation of the external landing sphere. After landing, plugs were to be opened allowing the freon to evaporate and the payload sphere to settle into upright contact with the landing sphere. The batteries were sized to allow up to three months of operation for the payload sphere. Various mission constraints limited the landing site to Oceanus Procellarum on the lunar equator, which the lander ideally would reach 66 hours after launch.

No cameras were carried by the Ranger landers, and no pictures were to be captured from the lunar surface during the mission. Instead, the 3.1 metres (10 ft) Ranger Block II mother ship carried a 200-scan-line television camera which was to capture images during the free-fall descent to the lunar surface. The camera was designed to transmit a picture every 10 seconds. [15] Seconds before impact, at 5 and 0.6 kilometres (3.11 and 0.37 mi) above the lunar surface, the Ranger mother ships took picture (which may be viewed here).

Other instruments gathering data before the mother ship crashed onto the Moon were a gamma ray spectrometer to measure overall lunar chemical composition and a radar altimeter. The radar altimeter was to give a signal ejecting the landing capsule and its solid-fueled braking rocket overboard from the Block II mother ship. The braking rocket was to slow and the landing sphere to a dead stop at 330 metres (1,080 ft) above the surface and separate, allowing the landing sphere to free fall once more and hit the surface. [ citation needed ]

On Ranger 3, failure of the Atlas guidance system and a software error aboard the Agena upper stage combined to put the spacecraft on a course that would miss the Moon. Attempts to salvage lunar photography during a flyby of the Moon were thwarted by in-flight failure of the onboard flight computer. This was probably because of prior heat sterilization of the spacecraft by keeping it above the boiling point of water for 24 hours on the ground, to protect the Moon from being contaminated by Earth organisms. Heat sterilization was also blamed for subsequent in-flight failures of the spacecraft computer on Ranger 4 and the power subsystem on Ranger 5. Only Ranger 4 reached the Moon in an uncontrolled crash impact on the far side of the Moon. [ citation needed ]

Heat sterilization was discontinued for the final four Block III Ranger probes. [ citation needed ] These replaced the Block II landing capsule and its retrorocket with a heavier, more capable television system to support landing site selection for upcoming Apollo crewed Moon landing missions. Six cameras were designed to take thousands of high-altitude photographs in the final twenty-minute period before crashing on the lunar surface. Camera resolution was 1,132 scan lines, far higher than the 525 lines found in a typical U.S. 1964 home television. While Ranger 6 suffered a failure of this camera system and returned no photographs despite an otherwise successful flight, the subsequent Ranger 7 mission to Mare Cognitum was a complete success.

Breaking the six-year string of failures in U.S. attempts to photograph the Moon at close range, the Ranger 7 mission was viewed as a national turning point and instrumental in allowing the key 1965 NASA budget appropriation to pass through the United States Congress intact without a reduction in funds for the Apollo crewed Moon landing program. Subsequent successes with Ranger 8 and Ranger 9 further buoyed U.S. hopes.

The Luna 9 spacecraft, launched by the Soviet Union, performed the first successful soft Moon landing on 3 February 1966. Airbags protected its 99 kilograms (218 lb) ejectable capsule which survived an impact speed of over 15 metres per second (54 km/h 34 mph). [24] Luna 13 duplicated this feat with a similar Moon landing on 24 December 1966. Both returned panoramic photographs that were the first views from the lunar surface. [25]

Luna 16 was the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and safely return a sample of lunar soil back to Earth. [26] It represented the first lunar sample return mission by the Soviet Union, and was the third lunar sample return mission overall, following the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions. This mission was later successfully repeated by Luna 20 (1972) and Luna 24 (1976).

In 1970 and 1973 two Lunokhod ("Moonwalker") robotic lunar rovers were delivered to the Moon, where they successfully operated for 10 and 4 months respectively, covering 10.5 km (Lunokhod 1) and 37 km (Lunokhod 2). These rover missions were in operation concurrently with the Zond and Luna series of Moon flyby, orbiter and landing missions.

Mission Mass (kg) Booster Launch date Goal Result Landing zone Lat/Lon
Luna-9 1580 Semyorka – 8K78 31 January 1966 Landing Success – first lunar soft landing, numerous photos Oceanus Procellarum 7.13°N 64.37°W
Luna-13 1580 Semyorka – 8K78 21 December 1966 Landing Success – second lunar soft landing, numerous photos Oceanus Procellarum 18°52'N 62°3'W
Proton 19 February 1969 Lunar rover Failure – booster malfunction, failed to reach Earth orbit
Proton 14 June 1969 Sample return Failure – booster malfunction, failed to reach Earth orbit
Luna-15 5,700 Proton 13 July 1969 Sample return Failure – lunar crash impact Mare Crisium unknown
Cosmos-300 Proton 23 September 1969 Sample return Failure – stranded in low Earth orbit
Cosmos-305 Proton 22 October 1969 Sample return Failure – stranded in low Earth orbit
Proton 6 February 1970 Sample return Failure – booster malfunction, failed to reach Earth orbit
Luna-16 5,600 Proton 12 September 1970 Sample return Success – returned 0.10 kg of Moon soil back to Earth Mare Fecunditatis 000.68S 056.30E
Luna-17 5,700 Proton 10 November 1970 Lunar rover Success – Lunokhod-1 rover traveled 10.5 km across lunar surface Mare Imbrium 038.28N 325.00E
Luna-18 5,750 Proton 2 September 1971 Sample return Failure – lunar crash impact Mare Fecunditatis 003.57N 056.50E
Luna-20 5,727 Proton 14 February 1972 Sample return Success – returned 0.05 kg of Moon soil back to Earth Mare Fecunditatis 003.57N 056.50E
Luna-21 5,950 Proton 8 January 1973 Lunar rover Success – Lunokhod-2 rover traveled 37.0 km across lunar surface LeMonnier Crater 025.85N 030.45E
Luna-23 5,800 Proton 28 October 1974 Sample return Failure – Moon landing achieved, but malfunction prevented sample return Mare Crisium 012.00N 062.00E
Proton 16 October 1975 Sample return Failure – booster malfunction, failed to reach Earth orbit
Luna-24 5,800 Proton 9 August 1976 Sample return Success – returned 0.17 kg of Moon soil back to Earth Mare Crisium 012.25N 062.20E

The U.S. robotic Surveyor program was part of an effort to locate a safe site on the Moon for a human landing and test under lunar conditions the radar and landing systems required to make a true controlled touchdown. Five of Surveyor's seven missions made successful uncrewed Moon landings. Surveyor 3 was visited two years after its Moon landing by the crew of Apollo 12. They removed parts of it for examination back on Earth to determine the effects of long-term exposure to the lunar environment.

Mission Mass (kg) Booster Launch date Goal Result Landing zone Lat/Lon
Surveyor 1 292 Atlas – Centaur 30 May 1966 Landing Success – 11,000 pictures returned, first U.S. Moon landing Oceanus Procellarum 002.45S 043.22W
Surveyor 2 292 Atlas – Centaur 20 September 1966 Landing Failure – midcourse engine malfunction, placing vehicle in unrecoverable tumble crashed southeast of Copernicus Crater Sinus Medii 004.00S 011.00W
Surveyor 3 302 Atlas – Centaur 20 April 1967 Landing Success – 6,000 pictures returned trench dug to 17.5 cm depth after 18 hr of robot arm use Oceanus Procellarum 002.94S 336.66E
Surveyor 4 282 Atlas – Centaur 14 July 1967 Landing Failure – radio contact lost 2.5 minutes before touchdown perfect automated Moon landing possible but outcome unknown Sinus Medii unknown
Surveyor 5 303 Atlas – Centaur 8 September 1967 Landing Success – 19,000 photos returned, first use of alpha scatter soil composition monitor Mare Tranquillitatis 001.41N 023.18E
Surveyor 6 300 Atlas – Centaur 7 November 1967 Landing Success – 30,000 photos returned, robot arm and alpha scatter science, engine restart, second landing 2.5 m away from first Sinus Medii 000.46N 358.63E
Surveyor 7 306 Atlas – Centaur 7 January 1968 Landing Success – 21,000 photos returned robot arm and alpha scatter science laser beams from Earth detected Tycho Crater 041.01S 348.59E

Within four months of each other in early 1966 the Soviet Union and the United States had accomplished successful Moon landings with uncrewed spacecraft. To the general public both countries had demonstrated roughly equal technical capabilities by returning photographic images from the surface of the Moon. These pictures provided a key affirmative answer to the crucial question of whether or not lunar soil would support upcoming crewed landers with their much greater weight.

However, the Luna 9 hard landing of a ruggedized sphere using airbags at a 50-kilometre-per-hour (31 mph) ballistic impact speed had much more in common with the failed 1962 Ranger landing attempts and their planned 160-kilometre-per-hour (99 mph) impacts than with the Surveyor 1 soft landing on three footpads using its radar-controlled, adjustable-thrust retrorocket. While Luna 9 and Surveyor 1 were both major national accomplishments, only Surveyor 1 had reached its landing site employing key technologies that would be needed for a crewed flight. Thus as of mid-1966, the United States had begun to pull ahead of the Soviet Union in the so-called Space Race to land a man on the Moon.

Advances in other areas were necessary before crewed spacecraft could follow uncrewed ones to the surface of the Moon. Of particular importance was developing the expertise to perform flight operations in lunar orbit. Ranger, Surveyor and initial Luna Moon landing attempts all flew directly to the surface without a lunar orbit. Such direct ascents use a minimum amount of fuel for uncrewed spacecraft on a one-way trip.

In contrast, crewed vehicles need additional fuel after a lunar landing to enable a return trip back to Earth for the crew. Leaving this massive amount of required Earth-return fuel in lunar orbit until it is used later in the mission is far more efficient than taking such fuel down to the lunar surface in a Moon landing and then hauling it all back into space yet again, working against lunar gravity both ways. Such considerations lead logically to a lunar orbit rendezvous mission profile for a crewed Moon landing.

Accordingly, beginning in mid-1966 both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. naturally progressed into missions featuring lunar orbit as a prerequisite to a crewed Moon landing. The primary goals of these initial uncrewed orbiters were extensive photographic mapping of the entire lunar surface for the selection of crewed landing sites and, for the Soviets, the checkout of radio communications gear that would be used in future soft landings.

An unexpected major discovery from initial lunar orbiters were vast volumes of dense materials beneath the surface of the Moon's maria. Such mass concentrations ("mascons") can send a crewed mission dangerously off course in the final minutes of a Moon landing when aiming for a relatively small landing zone that is smooth and safe. Mascons were also found over a longer period of time to greatly disturb the orbits of low-altitude satellites around the Moon, making their orbits unstable and forcing an inevitable crash on the lunar surface in the relatively short period of months to a few years.

Controlling the location of impact for spent lunar orbiters can have scientific value. For example, in 1999 the NASA Lunar Prospector orbiter was deliberately targeted to impact a permanently shadowed area of Shoemaker Crater near the lunar south pole. It was hoped that energy from the impact would vaporize suspected shadowed ice deposits in the crater and liberate a water vapor plume detectable from Earth. No such plume was observed. However, a small vial of ashes from the body of pioneer lunar scientist Eugene Shoemaker was delivered by the Lunar Prospector to the crater named in his honor – currently [ when? ] the only human remains on the Moon.

U.S.S.R. mission Mass (kg) Booster Launched Mission goal Mission result
Cosmos – 111 Molniya-M 1 March 1966 Lunar orbiter Failure – stranded in low Earth orbit
Luna-10 1,582 Molniya-M 31 March 1966 Lunar orbiter Success – 2,738 km x 2,088 km x 72 deg orbit, 178 m period, 60-day science mission
Luna-11 1,640 Molniya-M 24 August 1966 Lunar orbiter Success – 2,931 km x 1,898 km x 27 deg orbit, 178 m period, 38-day science mission
Luna-12 1,620 Molniya-M 22 October 1966 Lunar orbiter Success – 2,938 km x 1,871 km x 10 deg orbit, 205 m period, 89-day science mission
Cosmos-159 1,700 Molniya-M 17 May 1967 Prototype test Success – high Earth orbit crewed landing communications gear radio calibration test
Molniya-M 7 February 1968 Lunar orbiter Failure – booster malfunction, failed to reach Earth orbit – attempted radio calibration test?
Luna-14 1,700 Molniya-M 7 April 1968 Lunar orbiter Success – 870 km x 160 km x 42 deg orbit, 160 m period, unstable orbit, radio calibration test?
Luna-19 5,700 Proton 28 September 1971 Lunar orbiter Success – 140 km x 140 km x 41 deg orbit, 121 m period, 388-day science mission
Luna-22 5,700 Proton 29 May 1974 Lunar orbiter Success – 222 km x 219 km x 19 deg orbit, 130 m period, 521-day science mission

Luna 10 became the first spacecraft to orbit the Moon on 3 April 1966.

U.S. mission Mass (kg) Booster Launched Mission goal Mission result
Lunar Orbiter 1 386 Atlas – Agena 10 August 1966 Lunar orbiter Success – 1,160 km X 189 km x 12 deg orbit, 208 m period, 80-day photography mission
Lunar Orbiter 2 386 Atlas – Agena 6 November 1966 Lunar orbiter Success – 1,860 km X 52 km x 12 deg orbit, 208 m period, 339-day photography mission
Lunar Orbiter 3 386 Atlas – Agena 5 February 1967 Lunar orbiter Success – 1,860 km X 52 km x 21 deg orbit, 208 m period, 246-day photography mission
Lunar Orbiter 4 386 Atlas – Agena 4 May 1967 Lunar orbiter Success – 6,111 km X 2,706 km x 86 deg orbit, 721 m period, 180-day photography mission
Lunar Orbiter 5 386 Atlas – Agena 1 August 1967 Lunar orbiter Success – 6,023 km X 195 km x 85 deg orbit, 510 m period, 183-day photography mission

It is possible to aim a spacecraft from Earth so it will loop around the Moon and return to Earth without entering lunar orbit, following the so-called free return trajectory. Such circumlunar loop missions are simpler than lunar orbit missions because rockets for lunar orbit braking and Earth return are not required. However, a crewed circumlunar loop trip poses significant challenges beyond those found in a crewed low-Earth-orbit mission, offering valuable lessons in preparation for a crewed Moon landing. Foremost among these are mastering the demands of re-entering the Earth's atmosphere upon returning from the Moon.

Inhabited Earth-orbiting vehicles such as the Space Shuttle return to Earth from speeds of around 7,500 m/s (27,000 km/h). Due to the effects of gravity, a vehicle returning from the Moon hits Earth's atmosphere at a much higher speed of around 11,000 m/s (40,000 km/h). The g-loading on astronauts during the resulting deceleration can be at the limits of human endurance even during a nominal reentry. Slight variations in the vehicle flight path and reentry angle during a return from the Moon can easily result in fatal levels of deceleration force.

Achieving a crewed circumlunar loop flight prior to a crewed lunar landing became a primary goal of the Soviets with their Zond spacecraft program. The first three Zonds were robotic planetary probes after that, the Zond name was transferred to a completely separate human spaceflight program. The initial focus of these later Zonds was extensive testing of required high-speed reentry techniques. This focus was not shared by the U.S., who chose instead to bypass the stepping stone of a crewed circumlunar loop mission and never developed a separate spacecraft for this purpose.

Initial crewed spaceflights in the early 1960s placed a single person in low Earth orbit during the Soviet Vostok and U.S. Mercury programs. A two-flight extension of the Vostok program known as Voskhod effectively used Vostok capsules with their ejection seats removed to achieve Soviet space firsts of multiple person crews in 1964 and spacewalks in early 1965. These capabilities were later demonstrated by the U.S. in ten Gemini low Earth orbit missions throughout 1965 and 1966, using a totally new second-generation spacecraft design that had little in common with the earlier Mercury. These Gemini missions went on to prove techniques for orbital rendezvous and docking crucial to a crewed lunar landing mission profile.

After the end of the Gemini program, the Soviet Union began flying their second-generation Zond crewed spacecraft in 1967 with the ultimate goal of looping a cosmonaut around the Moon and returning him or her immediately to Earth. The Zond spacecraft was launched with the simpler and already operational Proton launch rocket, unlike the parallel Soviet human Moon landing effort also underway at the time based on third-generation Soyuz spacecraft requiring development of the advanced N-1 booster. The Soviets thus believed they could achieve a crewed Zond circumlunar flight years before a U.S. human lunar landing and so score a propaganda victory. However, significant development problems delayed the Zond program and the success of the U.S. Apollo lunar landing program led to the eventual termination of the Zond effort.

Like Zond, Apollo flights were generally launched on a free return trajectory that would return them to Earth via a circumlunar loop if a service module malfunction failed to place them in lunar orbit. This option was implemented after an explosion aboard the Apollo 13 mission in 1970, which is the only crewed circumlunar loop mission flown to date. [ when? ]

U.S.S.R mission Mass (kg) Booster Launched Mission goal Payload Mission result
Cosmos-146 5,400 Proton 10 March 1967 High Earth Orbit uncrewed Partial success – Successfully reached high Earth orbit, but became stranded and was unable to initiate controlled high speed atmospheric reentry test
Cosmos-154 5,400 Proton 8 April 1967 High Earth Orbit uncrewed Partial success – Successfully reached high Earth orbit, but became stranded and was unable to initiate controlled high speed atmospheric reentry test
Proton 28 September 1967 High Earth Orbit uncrewed Failure – booster malfunction, failed to reach Earth orbit
Proton 22 November 1967 High Earth Orbit uncrewed Failure – booster malfunction, failed to reach Earth orbit
Zond-4 5,140 Proton 2 March 1968 High Earth Orbit uncrewed Partial success – launched successfully to 300,000 km high Earth orbit, high speed reentry test guidance malfunction, intentional self-destruct to prevent landfall outside Soviet Union
Proton 23 April 1968 Circumlunar Loop non-human biological payload Failure – booster malfunction, failed to reach Earth orbit launch preparation tank explosion kills three in pad crew
Zond-5 5,375 Proton 15 September 1968 Circumlunar Loop non-human biological payload Success – looped around Moon with Earth's first near-lunar life forms, two tortoises and other live biological specimens, and the capsule and payload safely to Earth despite landing off-target outside the Soviet Union in the Indian Ocean
Zond-6 5,375 Proton 10 November 1968 Circumlunar Loop non-human biological payload Partial success – looped around Moon, successful reentry, but loss of cabin air pressure caused biological payload death, parachute system malfunction and severe vehicle damage upon landing
Proton 20 January 1969 Circumlunar Loop non-human biological payload Failure – booster malfunction, failed to reach Earth orbit
Zond-7 5,979 Proton 8 August 1969 Circumlunar Loop non-human biological payload Success – looped around Moon, returned biological payload safely to Earth and landed on-target inside Soviet Union. Only Zond mission whose reentry G-forces would have been survivable by human crew had they been aboard.
Zond-8 5,375 Proton 20 October 1970 Circumlunar Loop non-human biological payload Success – looped around Moon, returned biological payload safely to Earth despite landing off-target outside Soviet Union in the Indian Ocean

Zond 5 was the first spacecraft to carry life from Earth to the vicinity of the Moon and return, initiating the final lap of the Space Race with its payload of tortoises, insects, plants, and bacteria. Despite the failure suffered in its final moments, the Zond 6 mission was reported by Soviet media as being a success as well. Although hailed worldwide as remarkable achievements, both these Zond missions flew off-nominal reentry trajectories resulting in deceleration forces that would have been fatal to humans.

As a result, the Soviets secretly planned to continue uncrewed Zond tests until their reliability to support human flight had been demonstrated. However, due to NASA's continuing problems with the lunar module, and because of CIA reports of a potential Soviet crewed circumlunar flight in late 1968, NASA fatefully changed the flight plan of Apollo 8 from an Earth-orbit lunar module test to a lunar orbit mission scheduled for late December 1968.

In early December 1968 the launch window to the Moon opened for the Soviet launch site in Baikonur, giving the USSR their final chance to beat the US to the Moon. Cosmonauts went on alert and asked to fly the Zond spacecraft then in final countdown at Baikonur on the first human trip to the Moon. Ultimately, however, the Soviet Politburo decided the risk of crew death was unacceptable given the combined poor performance to that point of Zond/Proton and so scrubbed the launch of a crewed Soviet lunar mission. Their decision proved to be a wise one, since this unnumbered Zond mission was destroyed in another uncrewed test when it was finally launched several weeks later.


The 15 Best Space Images Of 2019: From A Black Hole And A New Planet To A Dazzling Solar Eclipse

It’s been a stunning year for space exploration. Yes, it was the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the first crewed moon landing, but so much more happened that increased our knowledge of the cosmos.

Here are 15 of the most amazing space images from 2019, in no particular order:

1. That Black Hole photo, April 2019

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) — a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes . [+] forged through international collaboration — was designed to capture images of a black hole. In coordinated press conferences across the globe, EHT researchers revealed that they succeeded, unveiling the first direct visual evidence of the supermassive black hole in the centre of Messier 87 and its shadow.

Were you impressed by the first-ever image of a black hole? If not, you’re not looking at it properly. Created by daily observations of eight ground-based radio telescopes synced to atomic clocks, what you’re looking at is actually the shadow of the black hole in the center of the supergiant elliptical M87 galaxy in Virgo, one of the most massive galaxies in the observable universe.

2. The first interstellar comet, October 2019

Comet 2I/Borisov, the first confirmed interstellar comet, as photographed by the Hubble Space . [+] Telescope.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Remember 'Oumuamua, the cigar-shaped rock that entered our solar system in 2017 to become the first interstellar object astronomers had ever detected? It happened again in 2019 with the detection of Comet 2l/Borisov, which was also found to host water.

3. ‘Into the Shadow’ total lunar eclipse, January 2019

Into the Shadow, winner of the Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2019 . [+] competition organised by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in London.

Hungarian photographer László Francsics won September’s Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2019 competition organised by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in London with his image “Into the Shadow.” Taken in Budapest, Hungary, the photograph depicts a creative and artistic composition of the 35 phases of the total lunar eclipse that occurred on January 21, 2019 also called the “Super Blue Blood Moon.”

4. ‘In the Shadow of The Moon’ total solar eclipse, July 2019

On July 2 denizens of planet Earth could stand in the Moon's dark umbral shadow during South . [+] America's 2019 total solar eclipse. It first touched down in the Southern Pacific Ocean, east of New Zealand. Racing toward the east along a narrow track, the shadow of the Moon made landfall along the Chilean coast with the Sun low on the western horizon. Captured in the foreground here are long shadows still cast by direct sunlight though, in the final moments before totality began. While diffraction spikes are from the camera lens aperture, the almost totally eclipsed Sun briefly shone like a beautiful diamond ring in the clear, darkened sky.

Yuri Beletsky (Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory, TWAN)

Although many had stayed away because of the threat of cloud, July 2, 2019 saw crystal clear skies and an achingly beautiful total solar eclipse across northern Chile and Argentina (I was there myself to witness it). Winner of NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, this image from Yuri Beletsky shows eclipse observers witnessing a diamond ring from the Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory, which by lucky chance happened to be within a narrow path of totality over Chile.

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5. A new planet for the solar system, October 2019

A new SPHERE/VLT image of Hygiea, which could be the Solar System's smallest dwarf planet yet.

ESO/P. VERNAZZA ET AL./MISTRAL ALGORITHM (ONERA/CNRS)

Did the Chile’s Very Large Telescope reveal a new planet? A study of Hygiea—an object in the main asteroid belt—suggested it could be the solar system's smallest dwarf planet yet. It already met three of the four requirements to be classified as a dwarf planet: it orbits around the Sun, it is not a moon and, unlike a planet, it has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit. The VLT found that it also met the fourth requirement that it has enough mass that its own gravity pulls it into a roughly spherical shape. 2019 also saw the confirmation of Hippocamp, a seventh inner moon of Neptune.

6. ‘Jupiter Marble’, March 2019

This striking view of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and turbulent southern hemisphere was captured by . [+] NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it performed a close pass of the gas giant planet.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

NASA’s Juno spacecraft at Jupiter has been doing some awesome work. It took three images used to produce this color-enhanced view on February 12, 2019, which were turned into this sublime image by citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill, who has consistently produced some incredible images from Juno’s raw data.

7. Hubble found a ‘space face’, June 2019

This new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captures two galaxies of equal size in a . [+] collision that appears to resemble a ghostly face. This observation was made on 19 June 2019 in visible light by the telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. Residing 704 million light-years from Earth, this system is catalogued as Arp-Madore 2026-424 (AM 2026-424) in the Arp-Madore “Catalogue of Southern Peculiar Galaxies and Associations”.

NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton, B.F. Wi

Based on an observation made by the Hubble Space Telescope on June 19, 2019 in visible light, the image shows a couple of galaxies colliding about 704 million light-years from Earth. The two “eyes” are the bright cores of the two galaxies, one of which slammed into the other, while the outline of the face is a ring of young, hot blue stars.

8. Apollo 11’s Saturn V rocket projected on to the Washington Monument, July 2019

Apollo 11 Saturn V Rocket Projected On The Washington Monument

The 50 year anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission with NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin was celebrated in a 17-minute show, “Apollo 50: Go for the Moon,” by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. It combined full-motion projection-mapping artwork on the Washington Monument and archival footage to recreate the launch of Apollo 11 and tell the story of the first moon landing.

9. First look at the SpaceX Starship Mk1, September 2019

The SpaceX Starship test vehicle, September 2019.

First unveiled in Texas during September was the SpaceX Starship, which could one day take 100 people to Mars. Is this 50m-tall hunk of stainless steel the most exciting things to happen in human spaceflight in recent decades? It will launch on a SpaceX Super Heavy rocket, and is destined for a short test flight followed by a go for orbit in 2020 . though it did blow its top in late November.

10. New Horizons flew by Ultima Thule, January 2019

The most detailed images of Ultima Thule -- obtained just minutes before the spacecraft's closest . [+] approach at 12:33 a.m. EST on Jan. 1 -- have a resolution of about 110 feet (33 meters) per pixel.

NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute, National Optical Astronomy Observatory

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft raced past the most distant object ever explored, a Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule about four billion miles from Earth. Its appearance, unlike anything astronomers had seen before, illuminates the processes that built the planets four and a half billion years ago.

11. Hubble snaps Saturn’s rings, June 2019

The latest view of Saturn from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captures exquisite details of the ring . [+] system — which looks like a phonograph record with grooves that represent detailed structure within the rings — and atmospheric details that once could only be captured by spacecraft visiting the distant world. Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 observed Saturn on June 20, 2019, as the planet made its closest approach to Earth, at about 845 million miles away. This image is the second in a yearly series of snapshots taken as part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project. OPAL is helping scientists understand the atmospheric dynamics and evolution of our solar system's gas giant planets. In Saturn's case, astronomers will be able to track shifting weather patterns and other changes to identify trends.

NASA, ESA, A. Simon (GSFC), M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL Team

The Hubble Space Telescope once again proved that Saturn is by far the solar system’s most photogenic planet when it photographed the gas giant as it neared “opposition”. Its magnificent ring system was near its maximum tilt toward Earth.

12. SpaceX launches a Falcon Heavy rocket at night, June 2019

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches the STP-2 mission from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space . [+] Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket for the third time, this time at night, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its client was the US Air Force, whose Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) contained a bunch of payloads. More importantly, it made the Falcon Heavy fit for future national security missions.

13. Sequence of the total solar eclipse from La Silla Observatory, July 2019

Recorded at regular intervals before and after the total eclipse phase, the frames in this composite . [+] sequence include the moment the Moon's dark shadow fell across some of planet Earth's advanced large telescopes. The dreamlike view looks west toward the setting Sun and the approaching Moon shadow. In fact La Silla was a little north of the shadow track's center line, so the region's stunning, clear skies are slightly brighter to the north (right) in the scene.

Another winner of NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, this image by the European Southern Observatory’s photo ambassador Petr Horálek shows a time-lapse of the total solar eclipse on July 2, 2019 from the ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. “Totality” occurs on average at any specific location every 360 years.

14. Dust devil frenzy, February 2019

This remarkable image of Mars was taken in the Terra Sabaea region of Mars, west of Augakuh Vallis, . [+] by the Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) onboard the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter.

Here’s Mars as you’ve never seen it before, with dust devils having churned up the surface material, exposing fresher material below. The reason why the streaks are so concentrated on the ridges is not known.

A spectacular image of the 2019 transit of Mercury taken from North Carolina by Zack Stockbridge . [+] using a Lunt Solar Systems H-alpha telescope. Stockbridge was part of the Citizen ToM Project that collected data to measure the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

ZACK STOCKBRIDGE & CITIZEN TOM PROJECT

15. Transit of Mercury, November 11, 2019

That little black dot is Mercury. A rare transit of Mercury across the face of the Sun took place over five hours in November, the last time the tiny inner planet will make that visual journey until 2032. In fact, a transit of Mercury won’t be visible again from North America for a whopping 30 years.


1 /60 Amazing NASA Space Images - In pictures

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969

This 1969 photograph of the eclipse of the sun was taken with a 16mm motion picture camera from the Apollo 12 spacecraft during its trans-Earth journey home from the moon. The fascinating view was created when the Earth moved directly between the sun and the Apollo 12 spacecraft

Astronaut Bruce McCandless II photographed 320 ft from the Space Shuttle Challenger during the first untethered EVA, made possible by his nitrogen jet propelled backpack (Manned Manuevering Unit or MMU) in 1984

The brilliant tapestry of young stars flaring to life resemble a glittering fireworks display in the 25th anniversary NASA Hubble Space Telescope image

Space shuttle Atlantis blasts off from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida in 2011. This lift off is the last in the 30-year-old shuttle program

The first teklevision image of Earth from a weather satellite taken by the TIROS-1 satellite in 1960

The Echo 2 satellite in 1960. Once the balloon was launched into orbit, a prerecorded message from President Dwight Eisenhower was transmitted from California and heard with clarity in New Jersey

The original seven Mercury astronauts and pioneers in human space exsploration pose in their silver spacesuits in 1961

President John F. Kennedy calls for a moon landing in 1961 durning Congress

Astronaut John Glenn climbs into his Friendship 7 space capsule in the Atlas rocket in 1962. Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth

A close-up view of an astronaut's bootprint in the lunar soil, photographed with a 70mm lunar surface camera during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity (EVA) on the moon in 1969

Man's first landing on the Moon. Lunar Module, "Eagle," touched down gently on the Sea of Tranquility on the east side of the Moon. Astronauts Edwin Aldrin and Neil Armstrong wre the first men to walk on the Moon in 1969

After an 8 month voyage to Mars, Mariner 4 makes the first flyby of the Mars (the red planet) in 1965 and became the first spacecraft to take close-up photographs of another planet

Astronaut Edward H. White II, pilot on the Gemini-Titan 4 spaceflight, is shown during his egress from the spacecraft. His face is covered by a shaded visor to protect him from the unfiltered rays of the sun. White became the first American astronaut to walk in space. He remained outside the spacecraft for 21 minutes during the third revolution of the Gemini-4 mission in 1965

The X-15 completed 199 flights to the edge of space from 1959-1968. Neil Armstrong was one of it's budding young pilots


Stunning images show the rare solar eclipse that just partially obscured the sun across the Northern Hemisphere

There was a partial solar eclipse Thursday morning over much of the Northern Hemisphere.

Those in the northern US got one of the best views of the eclipse if they woke up early to see it.

Here are some pictures showing the phenomenon in action.

Astronomy enthusiasts rose in the early-morning hours to capture a rare glimpse at a solar eclipse.

Those in the northern US as well as Canada and Greenland got the best shots of the "ring of fire" eclipse that took place Thursday morning, though the eclipse was only partial for most of the Northern Hemisphere.

A sliver of sun peaked out from behind the moon over the Baltimore skyline in this image taken by an Associated Press photographer.

The space enthusiast Brandon Berkoff woke up at 5 a.m. to snap this picture from the Sunken Meadow beach on Long Island, New York. "I got there right as the sun got above the horizon," he told Insider.

The meteorology student Collin Gross was also an early riser and met about a dozen people on a beach in New Jersey waiting for the eclipse. "It was amazing!" he said. "This was the first one I've actually seen, and it's so much more amazing seeing it in person."

Here, the partially blocked sun is seen behind the Statue of Liberty:

Here, behind the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan:

Here, as seen from Delaware and Washington, DC:

The video below shows a feed from a satellite that captured the shadow of the moon darkening the Earth as it passed in front of the sun.

There won't be another annular solar eclipse this year, but it's the first of two solar eclipses in 2021.

Insider's Aria Bendix describes the celestial science behind the occurrence in a previous post.


1 /60 Amazing NASA Space Images - In pictures

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969

This 1969 photograph of the eclipse of the sun was taken with a 16mm motion picture camera from the Apollo 12 spacecraft during its trans-Earth journey home from the moon. The fascinating view was created when the Earth moved directly between the sun and the Apollo 12 spacecraft

Astronaut Bruce McCandless II photographed 320 ft from the Space Shuttle Challenger during the first untethered EVA, made possible by his nitrogen jet propelled backpack (Manned Manuevering Unit or MMU) in 1984

The brilliant tapestry of young stars flaring to life resemble a glittering fireworks display in the 25th anniversary NASA Hubble Space Telescope image

Space shuttle Atlantis blasts off from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida in 2011. This lift off is the last in the 30-year-old shuttle program

The first teklevision image of Earth from a weather satellite taken by the TIROS-1 satellite in 1960

The Echo 2 satellite in 1960. Once the balloon was launched into orbit, a prerecorded message from President Dwight Eisenhower was transmitted from California and heard with clarity in New Jersey

The original seven Mercury astronauts and pioneers in human space exsploration pose in their silver spacesuits in 1961

President John F. Kennedy calls for a moon landing in 1961 durning Congress

Astronaut John Glenn climbs into his Friendship 7 space capsule in the Atlas rocket in 1962. Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth

A close-up view of an astronaut's bootprint in the lunar soil, photographed with a 70mm lunar surface camera during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity (EVA) on the moon in 1969

Man's first landing on the Moon. Lunar Module, "Eagle," touched down gently on the Sea of Tranquility on the east side of the Moon. Astronauts Edwin Aldrin and Neil Armstrong wre the first men to walk on the Moon in 1969

After an 8 month voyage to Mars, Mariner 4 makes the first flyby of the Mars (the red planet) in 1965 and became the first spacecraft to take close-up photographs of another planet

Astronaut Edward H. White II, pilot on the Gemini-Titan 4 spaceflight, is shown during his egress from the spacecraft. His face is covered by a shaded visor to protect him from the unfiltered rays of the sun. White became the first American astronaut to walk in space. He remained outside the spacecraft for 21 minutes during the third revolution of the Gemini-4 mission in 1965

The X-15 completed 199 flights to the edge of space from 1959-1968. Neil Armstrong was one of it's budding young pilots

Earthrise over the moon from Apollo 8 in 1968

American astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins lift off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, in the mammoth-sized Saturn V rocket on their way to the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969

Astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. saluting the US flag on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 lunar mission in 1969

View of Moon limb with Earth on the horizon in 1969 during the Apollo 11 mission

Apollo XI astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin laugh with President Richard Nixon aboard the USS Hornet in 1969

Richard Nixon Foundation via Getty Images


The most captivating photos of the solar system taken in the decade you were born

For decades, scientists have pointed Earthly lenses toward the sky to capture images of the cosmos. Even the earliest rockets that launched off the planet brought cameras into space.

At first, our photos of the solar system came back grainy, unclear, and colorless. The very first image taken in space, for example, came from a 33mm motion-picture camera that American scientists strapped to a captured German rocket and launched off Earth at the end of World War II. The camera fell back to Earth and shattered, but the film survived.

Other early solar-system images came as NASA and the Soviet Union explored the moon for the first time — people born in the 1950s and 60s grew up with the iconic photos of the first astronauts walking on the moon.

Since then, increasingly sophisticated missions have ventured farther into space with better and better cameras. Kids in the '80s got the first up-close images of Saturn and Neptune, while children today are accustomed to high-quality colorful shots of the deserts of Mars and swirling clouds of Jupiter.

Here are the best photos of our solar system from the decade you were born.


1 /60 Amazing NASA Space Images - In pictures

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969

This 1969 photograph of the eclipse of the sun was taken with a 16mm motion picture camera from the Apollo 12 spacecraft during its trans-Earth journey home from the moon. The fascinating view was created when the Earth moved directly between the sun and the Apollo 12 spacecraft

Astronaut Bruce McCandless II photographed 320 ft from the Space Shuttle Challenger during the first untethered EVA, made possible by his nitrogen jet propelled backpack (Manned Manuevering Unit or MMU) in 1984

The brilliant tapestry of young stars flaring to life resemble a glittering fireworks display in the 25th anniversary NASA Hubble Space Telescope image

Space shuttle Atlantis blasts off from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida in 2011. This lift off is the last in the 30-year-old shuttle program

The first teklevision image of Earth from a weather satellite taken by the TIROS-1 satellite in 1960

The Echo 2 satellite in 1960. Once the balloon was launched into orbit, a prerecorded message from President Dwight Eisenhower was transmitted from California and heard with clarity in New Jersey

The original seven Mercury astronauts and pioneers in human space exsploration pose in their silver spacesuits in 1961

President John F. Kennedy calls for a moon landing in 1961 durning Congress

Astronaut John Glenn climbs into his Friendship 7 space capsule in the Atlas rocket in 1962. Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth

A close-up view of an astronaut's bootprint in the lunar soil, photographed with a 70mm lunar surface camera during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity (EVA) on the moon in 1969

Man's first landing on the Moon. Lunar Module, "Eagle," touched down gently on the Sea of Tranquility on the east side of the Moon. Astronauts Edwin Aldrin and Neil Armstrong wre the first men to walk on the Moon in 1969

After an 8 month voyage to Mars, Mariner 4 makes the first flyby of the Mars (the red planet) in 1965 and became the first spacecraft to take close-up photographs of another planet

Astronaut Edward H. White II, pilot on the Gemini-Titan 4 spaceflight, is shown during his egress from the spacecraft. His face is covered by a shaded visor to protect him from the unfiltered rays of the sun. White became the first American astronaut to walk in space. He remained outside the spacecraft for 21 minutes during the third revolution of the Gemini-4 mission in 1965

The X-15 completed 199 flights to the edge of space from 1959-1968. Neil Armstrong was one of it's budding young pilots