The folks at NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, MD, have put together a glorious video of an accelerated sunrise and sunset on the Moon that will reward you with some of the finest images ever taken of our nearest neighbor, and perhaps inspire you to see some of these features with your own telescope. NASA set this visualization of sunrises and sunsets on the Moon to the strains of Claude Debussy’s most famous work, Clair de Lune. Watch the whole thing. It’s a great way to spend a few minutes.
From NASA’s notes:
This visualization attempts to capture the mood of Claude Debussy’s best-known composition, Clair de Lune (moonlight in French). The piece was published in 1905 as the third of four movements in the composer’s Suite Bergamasque, and unlike the other parts of this work, Clair is quiet, contemplative, and slightly melancholy, evoking the feeling of a solitary walk through a moonlit garden.
The visuals were composed like a nature documentary, with clean cuts and a mostly stationary virtual camera. The viewer follows the Sun throughout a lunar day, seeing sunrises and then sunsets over prominent features on the Moon…
The visualization was created to accompany a performance of Clair de Lune by the National Symphony Orchestra Pops, led by conductor Emil de Cou, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, on June 1 and 2, 2018, as part of a celebration of NASA’s 60th anniversary. The visualization uses a digital 3D model of the Moon built from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter global elevation maps and image mosaics. The lighting is derived from actual Sun angles during lunar days in 2018.
While this is a beautiful piece of movie making based on some of the finest images of the Moon ever taken with the help of an advanced spacecraft, we backyard stargazers must keep in mind that we can see many of these vistas, both at sunrise and sunset, with our own small telescopes during each and every lunar cycle. The view is especially dramatic as each of these regions passes lies near the terminator, the transition from light to dark on the Moon’s surface where the Sun is rising or setting. The far side of the Moon is beyond our access, of course, but we can see in this video the sun rising on:
- The region around the crater Theophilus at the edge of the Sea of Nectar at 0:31
- The craters Aristillus, Autolycus, and Archimedes south of the Sea of Rains at 0:48
- The immense and relatively young crater Copernicus at 1:10
- The ancient lava-flooded crater Prinz and the craters Aristarchus and Herodotus, along with the Schroter Valley at 1:30
- Mare Orientale (the Eastern Sea) at 2:00 (terrestrial observers can just glimpse a section of this giant impact basin when the time is right)
The middle part of this short video shows sunrise and sunset on the far side of the Moon, a region which mostly out of side to Earth-bound observers, but which is still beautiful yet different from the ‘near side’ that we can see.
The latter half shows the same accessible features listed above as the Sun sets. Again, turn a telescope to the Moon and you can see this for yourself, although at a much slower pace, when the Moon is past full.Share This: