2014 Total Lunar Eclipse

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Lunar Eclipse and LRO Edited Packages

  • Need To Know: Lunar Eclipse and LRO
    2014.04.08
    On April 15th, 2014 there will be a total lunar eclipse visible from North America. Noah Petro, LRO Deputy Project Scientist, discusses this unique event and what effect it will have on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
  • Understanding Lunar Eclipses
    2014.04.08
    What can cause the full Moon to quickly darken, then glow red? A lunar eclipse: a striking display of orbital mechanics that occurs when the Moon passes through the Earth's shadow. To learn more, watch the video below.
  • Earthrise: The 45th Anniversary
    2013.12.20
    In December of 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 became the first people to leave our home planet and travel to another body in space. But as crew members Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders all later recalled, the most important thing they discovered was Earth. Using photo mosaics and elevation data from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), this video commemorates the 45th anniversary of Apollo 8's historic flight by recreating the moment when the crew first saw and photographed the Earth rising from behind the Moon. Narrator Andrew Chaikin, author of A Man on the Moon, sets the scene for a three-minute visualization of the view from both inside and outside the spacecraft accompanied by the onboard audio of the astronauts. The visualization draws on numerous historical sources, including the actual cloud pattern on Earth from the ESSA-7 satellite and dozens of photographs taken by Apollo 8, and it reveals new, historically significant information about the Earthrise photographs. It has not been widely known, for example, that the spacecraft was rolling when the photos were taken, and that it was this roll that brought the Earth into view. The visualization establishes the precise timing of the roll and, for the first time ever, identifies which window each photograph was taken from. The key to the new work is a set of vertical stereo photographs taken by a camera mounted in the Command Module's rendezvous window and pointing straight down onto the lunar surface. It automatically photographed the surface every 20 seconds. By registering each photograph to a model of the terrain based on LRO data, the orientation of the spacecraft can be precisely determined. A Google Hangout discussion of this visualization between Ernie Wright (creator of the visualization), Andrew Chaikin (narrator and script writer for the visualization and author of A Man on the Moon), John Keller (LRO project scientist), and Aries Keck (NASA media specialist) was held on December 20, 2013. A replay of that hangout is available here. This NASA Wavelength blog entry about Earthrise includes links to educator resources related to LRO.
  • Tour of the Moon
    2011.10.27

    Using elevation and image data returned by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), this animation takes the viewer on a virtual tour of the Moon. The tour visits a number of interesting sites chosen to illustrate a wide variety of lunar terrain features. Some are on the near side and are familiar to both professional and amateur observers on Earth, while others can only be seen clearly from space. Some are large and old (Orientale, South Pole-Aitken), others are smaller and younger (Tycho, Aristarchus, Shackleton). Constantly shadowed areas near the poles are hard to photograph but easier to measure with altimetry, while several of the Apollo landing sites, all relatively near the equator, have been imaged at resolutions as high as 25 centimeters (10 inches) per pixel.

    The shape of the terrain in this animation is based primarily on data from LRO's laser altimeter (LOLA), supplemented by stereo image data from its wide angle camera (LROC WAC) and from Japan's Kaguya mission. The global surface color is from Clementine.

  • The Moon's Permanently Shadowed Regions
    2013.03.06
    As you watch the Moon over the course of a month, you'll notice that different features are illuminated by the Sun at different times. However, there are some parts of the Moon that never see sunlight. These areas are called permanently shadowed regions, and they appear dark because unlike on the Earth, the axis of the Moon is nearly perpendicular to the direction of the sun's light. The result is that the bottoms of certain craters are never pointed toward the Sun, with some remaining dark for over two billion years. However, thanks to new data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we can now see into these dark craters in incredible detail.
  • Water on the Moon
    2013.06.03
    Since the 1960’s, scientists have suspected that frozen water could survive in cold, dark craters at the Moon’s poles. While previous lunar missions have detected hints of water on the Moon, new data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) pinpoints areas near the south pole where water is likely to exist. The key to this discovery is hydrogen, the main ingredient in water: LRO uses its Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector, or LEND, to measure how much hydrogen is trapped within the lunar soil. By combining years of LEND data, scientists see mounting evidence of hydrogen-rich areas near the Moon’s south pole, strongly suggesting the presence of frozen water.

2014 Lunar Eclipse Essentials

  • LRO and the Lunar Eclipse of April 15, 2014: Shadow View
    2014.04.07
    In the early morning hours of April 15, 2014, the Moon enters the Earth’s shadow, creating a total lunar eclipse, the first of four that are visible in the Western Hemisphere in the next two years. This animation shows the changing appearance of the Moon as it travels into and out of the Earth’s shadow, along with the times at various stages. Versions of the animation have been created for each of the four time zones of the contiguous United States. All of North and South America will see this eclipse, and you won’t need special equipment to see it. Just stay up late, go outside and look up! The penumbra is the part of the Earth’s shadow where the Sun is only partially covered by the Earth. The umbra is where the Sun is completely hidden. The animation includes the position of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. LRO is powered by sunlight, but during the eclipse, it will have to rely on its battery for almost three hours.
  • Lunar Eclipse of April 15, 2014 As Viewed from the Moon
    2014.04.10
    In the early morning hours of April 15, 2014, the Moon enters the Earth’s shadow, creating a total lunar eclipse. When viewed from the Moon, as in this animation, the Earth hides the Sun. A red ring, the sum of all Earth’s sunrises and sunsets, lines the Earth’s limb and casts a ruddy light on the lunar landscape. With the darkness of the eclipse, the stars come out. The city lights of North and South America are visible on the night side of the Earth. The part of the Earth visible in this animation is the part where the lunar eclipse can be seen.
  • Lunar Eclipses and the Moon's Orbit
    2014.04.10
    The animations on this page illustrate the Moon’s orbit and its role in lunar and solar eclipses. A solar eclipse happens when the Moon’s shadow falls on the Earth, while a lunar eclipse happens when the Earth’s shadow falls on the Moon. Eclipses can only happen at New and Full Moon, when the Earth, Moon, and Sun are all in a straight line. But they don’t happen every New and Full Moon, because the Moon’s orbit is tilted by about 5 degrees. As the Earth and Moon travel around the Sun, the tilt of the Moon’s orbit changes direction relative to the Sun. This is analogous to the way the tilt of the Earth causes seasons. Just like winter and summer happen every six months, eclipses tend to occur on a roughly six-month cycle. Unlike most eclipse shadow diagrams, the first three animations here don’t greatly exaggerate the scale of the Earth and Moon. They are only 2x their true scale. The view is exactly perpendicular to the Earth-Sun line. The angle of the Moon’s orbital tilt and the “tapering” of the shadows are both accurate. The orbit happens to be calculated for the months preceding the April 15, 2014 total lunar eclipse.
  • LRO and the Lunar Eclipse of April 15, 2014: Telescopic View
    2014.04.10

    Dial-A-Moon

    UT Hour: Minute: Second:



    Typically, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft flies over the night side of the Moon every two hours, spending about 45 minutes in darkness. Because LRO is powered by sunlight, it uses a rechargeable battery to operate while on the night side of the Moon and then charges the battery when it comes back around into daylight.

    During the total lunar eclipse of April 15, 2014, however, LRO emerges from the night side of the Moon only to find the Sun blocked by the Earth. LRO needs to travel an entire orbit before seeing the Sun again, relying continuously on its battery for almost three hours, longer than it ever has before.

    LRO won’t be in any real danger as long as its power consumption is handled carefully. Its scientific instruments will be turned off temporarily, while vital subsystems like the heater will remain on. LRO will be closely monitored throughout the eclipse.

    This animation shows the Moon as it might look through a telescope on Earth, with LRO’s orbit, its view of the Sun, and a fuel gauge showing received sunlight and the battery’s charge.

2014 Live Shot Broll

Moon Resources

  • Moon Phase and Libration, 2014
    2013.12.06

    Dial-A-Moon

    Month: Day: UT Hour:



    The animation archived on this page shows the geocentric phase, libration, position angle of the axis, and apparent diameter of the Moon throughout the year 2014, at hourly intervals. Until the end of 2014, the initial Dial-A-Moon image will be the frame from this animation for the current hour.

    More in this series: 2015 | 2015 South | 2014 South | 2013 | 2013 South | 2012 | 2011

    Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has been in orbit around the Moon since the summer of 2009. Its laser altimeter (LOLA) and camera (LROC) are recording the rugged, airless lunar terrain in exceptional detail, making it possible to visualize the Moon with unprecedented fidelity. This is especially evident in the long shadows cast near the terminator, or day-night line. The pummeled, craggy landscape thrown into high relief at the terminator would be impossible to recreate in the computer without global terrain maps like those from LRO.

    The Moon always keeps the same face to us, but not exactly the same face. Because of the tilt and shape of its orbit, we see the Moon from slightly different angles over the course of a month. When a month is compressed into 24 seconds, as it is in this animation, our changing view of the Moon makes it look like it's wobbling. This wobble is called libration.

    The word comes from the Latin for "balance scale" (as does the name of the zodiac constellation Libra) and refers to the way such a scale tips up and down on alternating sides. The sub-Earth point gives the amount of libration in longitude and latitude. The sub-Earth point is also the apparent center of the Moon's disk and the location on the Moon where the Earth is directly overhead.

    The Moon is subject to other motions as well. It appears to roll back and forth around the sub-Earth point. The roll angle is given by the position angle of the axis, which is the angle of the Moon's north pole relative to celestial north. The Moon also approaches and recedes from us, appearing to grow and shrink. The two extremes, called perigee (near) and apogee (far), differ by more than 10%.

    The most noticed monthly variation in the Moon's appearance is the cycle of phases, caused by the changing angle of the Sun as the Moon orbits the Earth. The cycle begins with the waxing (growing) crescent Moon visible in the west just after sunset. By first quarter, the Moon is high in the sky at sunset and sets around midnight. The full Moon rises at sunset and is high in the sky at midnight. The third quarter Moon is often surprisingly conspicuous in the daylit western sky long after sunrise.

    Celestial north is up in these images, corresponding to the view from the northern hemisphere. The descriptions of the print resolution stills also assume a northern hemisphere orientation. (There is also a south-up version of this page.)

    From this birdseye view, it's somewhat easier to see that the phases of the Moon are an effect of the changing angles of the sun, Moon and Earth. The Moon is full when its orbit places it in the middle of the night side of the Earth. First and Third Quarter Moon occur when the Moon is along the day-night line on the Earth.

    The First Point of Aries is at the 3 o'clock position in the image. The sun is in this direction at the spring equinox. You can check this by freezing the animation at the 1:03 mark, or by freezing the full animation with the time stamp near March 20 at 17:00 UTC. This direction serves as the zero point for both ecliptic longitude and right ascension.

    The north pole of the Earth is tilted 23.5 degrees toward the 12 o'clock position at the top of the image. The tilt of the Earth is important for understanding why the north pole of the Moon seems to swing back and forth. In the full animation, watch both the orbit and the "gyroscope" Moon in the lower left. The widest swings happen when the Moon is at the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions. When the Moon is at the 3 o'clock position, the ground we're standing on is tilted to the left when we look at the Moon. At the 9 o'clock position, it's tilted to the right. The tilt itself doesn't change. We're just turned around, looking in the opposite direction.

    The subsolar and sub-Earth points are the locations on the Moon's surface where the sun or the Earth are directly overhead, at the zenith. A line pointing straight up at one of these points will be pointing toward the sun or the Earth. The sub-Earth point is also the apparent center of the Moon's disk as observed from the Earth.

    In the animation, the blue dot is the sub-Earth point, and the yellow dot is the subsolar point. The lunar latitude and longitude of the sub-Earth point is a measure of the Moon's libration. For example, when the blue dot moves to the left of the meridian (the line at 0 degrees longitude), an extra bit of the Moon's western limb is rotating into view, and when it moves above the equator, a bit of the far side beyond the north pole becomes visible.

    At any given time, half of the Moon is in sunlight, and the subsolar point is in the center of the lit half. Full Moon occurs when the subsolar point is near the center of the Moon's disk. When the subsolar point is somewhere on the far side of the Moon, observers on Earth see a crescent phase.

    The Moon's orbit around the Earth isn't a perfect circle. The orbit is slightly elliptical, and because of that, the Moon's distance from the Earth varies between 28 and 32 Earth diameters, or about 356,400 and 406,700 kilometers. In each orbit, the smallest distance is called perigee, from Greek words meaning "near earth," while the greatest distance is called apogee. The Moon looks largest at perigee because that's when it's closest to us.

    The animation follows the imaginary line connecting the Earth and the Moon as it sweeps around the Moon's orbit. From this vantage point, it's easy to see the variation in the Moon's distance. Both the distance and the sizes of the Earth and Moon are to scale in this view. In the full-resolution frames, the Earth is 50 pixels wide, the Moon is 14 pixels wide, and the distance between them is about 1500 pixels, on average.

    Note too that the Earth appears to go through phases just like the Moon does. For someone standing on the surface of the Moon, the sun and the stars rise and set, but the Earth doesn't move in the sky. It goes through a monthly sequence of phases as the sun angle changes. The phases are the opposite of the Moon's. During New Moon here, the Earth is full as viewed from the Moon.

  • Moon Phase and Libration, 2014 South Up
    2013.12.06

    Dial-A-Moon

    Month: Day: UT Hour:



    The animation archived on this page shows the geocentric phase, libration, position angle of the axis, and apparent diameter of the Moon throughout the year 2014, at hourly intervals. Until the end of 2014, the initial Dial-A-Moon image will be the frame from this animation for the current hour.

    More in this series: 2015 | 2015 South | 2014 | 2013 | 2013 South | 2012 | 2011

    Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has been in orbit around the Moon since the summer of 2009. Its laser altimeter (LOLA) and camera (LROC) are recording the rugged, airless lunar terrain in exceptional detail, making it possible to visualize the Moon with unprecedented fidelity. This is especially evident in the long shadows cast near the terminator, or day-night line. The pummeled, craggy landscape thrown into high relief at the terminator would be impossible to recreate in the computer without global terrain maps like those from LRO.

    The Moon always keeps the same face to us, but not exactly the same face. Because of the tilt and shape of its orbit, we see the Moon from slightly different angles over the course of a month. When a month is compressed into 24 seconds, as it is in this animation, our changing view of the Moon makes it look like it's wobbling. This wobble is called libration.

    The word comes from the Latin for "balance scale" (as does the name of the zodiac constellation Libra) and refers to the way such a scale tips up and down on alternating sides. The sub-Earth point gives the amount of libration in longitude and latitude. The sub-Earth point is also the apparent center of the Moon's disk and the location on the Moon where the Earth is directly overhead.

    The Moon is subject to other motions as well. It appears to roll back and forth around the sub-Earth point. The roll angle is given by the position angle of the axis, which is the angle of the Moon's north pole relative to celestial north. The Moon also approaches and recedes from us, appearing to grow and shrink. The two extremes, called perigee (near) and apogee (far), differ by more than 10%.

    The most noticed monthly variation in the Moon's appearance is the cycle of phases, caused by the changing angle of the Sun as the Moon orbits the Earth. The cycle begins with the waxing (growing) crescent Moon visible in the west just after sunset. By first quarter, the Moon is high in the sky at sunset and sets around midnight. The full Moon rises at sunset and is high in the sky at midnight. The third quarter Moon is often surprisingly conspicuous in the daylit western sky long after sunrise.

    Celestial south is up in these images, corresponding to the view from the southern hemisphere. The descriptions of the print resolution stills also assume a southern hemisphere orientation. (There is also a north-up version of this page.)

    From this birdseye view, it's somewhat easier to see that the phases of the Moon are an effect of the changing angles of the sun, Moon and Earth. The Moon is full when its orbit places it in the middle of the night side of the Earth. First and Third Quarter Moon occur when the Moon is along the day-night line on the Earth.

    The First Point of Aries is at the 3 o'clock position in the image. The sun is in this direction at the spring equinox. You can check this by freezing the animation at the 1:03 mark, or by freezing the full animation with the time stamp near March 20 at 17:00 UTC. This direction serves as the zero point for both ecliptic longitude and right ascension.

    The south pole of the Earth is tilted 23.5 degrees toward the 12 o'clock position at the top of the image. The tilt of the Earth is important for understanding why the north pole of the Moon seems to swing back and forth. In the full animation, watch both the orbit and the "gyroscope" Moon in the lower left. The widest swings happen when the Moon is at the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions. When the Moon is at the 3 o'clock position, the ground we're standing on is tilted to the left when we look at the Moon. At the 9 o'clock position, it's tilted to the right. The tilt itself doesn't change. We're just turned around, looking in the opposite direction.

    The subsolar and sub-Earth points are the locations on the Moon's surface where the sun or the Earth are directly overhead, at the zenith. A line pointing straight up at one of these points will be pointing toward the sun or the Earth. The sub-Earth point is also the apparent center of the Moon's disk as observed from the Earth.

    In the animation, the blue dot is the sub-Earth point, and the yellow dot is the subsolar point. The lunar latitude and longitude of the sub-Earth point is a measure of the Moon's libration. For example, when the blue dot moves to the left of the meridian (the line at 0 degrees longitude), an extra bit of the Moon's eastern limb is rotating into view, and when it moves above the equator, a bit of the far side beyond the south pole becomes visible.

    At any given time, half of the Moon is in sunlight, and the subsolar point is in the center of the lit half. Full Moon occurs when the subsolar point is near the center of the Moon's disk. When the subsolar point is somewhere on the far side of the Moon, observers on Earth see a crescent phase.

    The Moon's orbit around the Earth isn't a perfect circle. The orbit is slightly elliptical, and because of that, the Moon's distance from the Earth varies between 28 and 32 Earth diameters, or about 356,400 and 406,700 kilometers. In each orbit, the smallest distance is called perigee, from Greek words meaning "near earth," while the greatest distance is called apogee. The Moon looks largest at perigee because that's when it's closest to us.

    The animation follows the imaginary line connecting the Earth and the Moon as it sweeps around the Moon's orbit. From this vantage point, it's easy to see the variation in the Moon's distance. Both the distance and the sizes of the Earth and Moon are to scale in this view. In the full-resolution frames, the Earth is 50 pixels wide, the Moon is 14 pixels wide, and the distance between them is about 1500 pixels, on average.

    Note too that the Earth appears to go through phases just like the Moon does. For someone standing on the surface of the Moon, the sun and the stars rise and set, but the Earth doesn't move in the sky. It goes through a monthly sequence of phases as the sun angle changes. The phases are the opposite of the Moon's. During New Moon here, the Earth is full as viewed from the Moon.

LRO and LADEE Resources

  • LRO Spacecraft Animations
    2008.06.07
    11 animations of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's (LRO) journey around the Moon.
  • NASA Downloads the Future
    2013.08.28
    LLCD will be NASA's first-step in creating a high performance space-based laser communications system. The LLCD mission consists of space-based and ground-based components. The Lunar Laser Space Terminal (LLST) is an optical communications test payload to fly aboard the LADEE Spacecraft and it will demonstrate laser communications from lunar orbit.The ground segment consists of three ground terminals that will perform high-rate communication with the LLST aboard LADEE. The primary ground terminal, the Lunar Laser Ground Terminal (LLGT) is located in White Sands, NM and was developed by MIT/Lincoln Laboratory and NASA. The ground segment also includes two secondary terminals located at NASA/JPL's Table Mountain Facility in California and the European Space Agency's El Teide Observatory in Tenerife, Spain. The main goal of LLCD is proving fundamental concepts of laser communications and transferring data at a rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps), which is about five times the current state-of-the-art from lunar distances. Engineers expect future space missions to benefit greatly from the use of laser communications technology. To learn more about laser communications and the LLCD mission please click here.