Science

NASA’s asteroid probe Lucy will observe the Super Flower Blood Moon lunar eclipse from deep space tonight.

Like a flashlight beam piercing the darkness, reflected sunlight from the moon will flicker on and off during a lunar eclipse, barely visible to a spacecraft heading towards an asteroid.

A NASA spacecraft called Lucy plans to take a picture of the Super Flower Blood Mmoon lunar eclipse on May 15 to visit clusters of asteroids that orbit the Sun at about the same distance as Jupiter, called trojans. The spacecraft, launched in October 2021, is on its way back to Earth for gravitational aid to the outer solar system in October, but right now the spacecraft is still far away: roughly 70% of the distance between Earth and the Sun. You can watch the Flower Blood Moon eclipse on webcasts starting at 9:30 pm EDT (01:30 GMT).

Regardless, at least some of the high-resolution cameras on the spacecraft should (theoretically) be able to see the Moon fade into the Earth’s shadow during the May 15 and 16 lunar eclipse, according to the Southwestern Research Institute in Colorado. . where the mission’s main science team is based.

“From this distance, Lucy will see the eclipse from a rare angle,” officials said in a press release Thursday (May 12). “For Lucy, the bulging Earth and Moon will be clearly visible. When the moon enters the shadow of the earth, it will go out, [and] will no longer be seen until it again emerges from the Earth’s shadow.”

Related: May 2022 Total Lunar Eclipse: Flower Blood Moon Guide

To see the eclipse in action, Lucy will take pictures with her L’LORRI (Lucy Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) high resolution panchromatic camera. This is a next-generation instrument based on the version that flew on the New Horizons spacecraft that flew past Pluto and visits other asteroids in the far Kuiper Belt.

The press release hinted that other thermal imagers could be involved, but did not provide details. Lucy has several other similar tools. There is L’Ralph, a two-in-one instrument with a color camera (multispectral visible imaging camera, MVIC) and an infrared imaging spectrometer (Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array, LEISA).

NASA’s Lucy mission will be the first to visit the Trojan asteroids. (Image credit: NASA/Southwestern Research Institute)

In addition, during Lucy’s primary mission, Terminal Tracking Cameras (T2CAM) provide a wide-angle image, and the L’TES Infrared Thermionic Emission Spectrometer will measure the surface temperatures of target asteroids.

“Observing this eclipse will allow Lucy’s team to ‘test run’ the observing procedures, making sure all imaging devices and equipment are working properly,” SwRI said. “It’s also a fun opportunity as it’s extremely rare to get real images of astronomical events like this from such a unique vantage point.”

Visibility map of the total lunar eclipse of Super Blood Moon May 15–16, 2022. (Image credit: NASA Science Imaging Studio)

On Earth, the Flower Moon eclipse will be visible at full phase from parts of America, Antarctica, Europe, Africa and the East Pacific. A penumbral eclipse (when the edge of the Earth’s shadow falls on the Moon) is visible in New Zealand, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, although this type of eclipse is difficult to observe.

While times vary by location, TimeandDate.com reports that the partial eclipse phase of the lunar eclipse begins May 15 at 10:28 pm EDT (02:28 GMT May 16). It will reach the red peak of the Blood Moon on May 16 at 04:11 EDT (04:11 GMT). The event then ends at 1:55 AM EST (05:55 GMT). Note that the penumbral eclipse will start about an hour earlier and end about an hour after the partial eclipse.

Whether you’re hoping to photograph the Moon or want to prepare your gear for a total lunar eclipse, check out our best astrophotography cameras and best astrophotography lenses. Read our guides on how to photograph a lunar eclipse, as well as how to photograph the moon with a camera, for some helpful tips on planning a lunar photo shoot.

Editor’s Note: If you’ve taken an amazing lunar eclipse photo (or your own eclipse webcast) and would like to share it with Space.com readers, please send your photos, comments, name, and location to spacephotos@. .

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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