First lunar eclipse observed from deep space

Space Mission
Apollo 15, 26 July – 7 August, 1971

David Scott

Photo Description
Vintage chromogenic print on fibre-based Kodak paper, 20.3 x 25.4cm (8 x 10in), with A KODAK PAPER watermarks on verso, RED NUMBERED NASA AS15-96-13119

Extremely rare photograph of the first lunar eclipse observed from deep space.
The Apollo 15 spacecraft was about 200,000 km from Earth when the crew captured this truly out of this world view of a lunar eclipse from deep space (through the 80mm lens) that had never been witnessed by humans before. Original NASA caption for a variant of the photograph: The lunar eclipse, which occurred while the Apollo 15 spacecraft was returning from the Moon, was recorded in a series of color photographs. Eleven photographs were taken over a 16-minute period before and during the Moon’s entry into Earth’s shadow. A second set of ten photographs was obtained over a like period of time as the moon was leaving the shadow. Even when the moon was not in eclipse during this series, it was in Earth’s penumbra – the partially shadowed region where only a part of the sun’s light can reach the moon directly. These photographs were taken (hand-held mode) by astronaut David R. Scott, commander, using the electric Hasselblad camera. The view was taken with the 80mm lens. Other data on these two-second exposure frames taken six minutes after exit from the eclipse: the white region, whenever it appears, is penumbral lighting of the lunar surface. The orange-red-brown band is caused by sunlight that has first passed through Earth’s atmosphere where the shorter wavelength, blue light has been scattered out, allowing only a diminished intensity red light to reach the moon. These pictures tell us something about Earth’s atmosphere with the lunar surface acting as a projection screen where we can examine the results. These pictures give us an initial record of scattering by a known atmosphere that can later be compared to similar observations made by future spacecraft showing other moons circling other planets in our solar system. Eastman Kodak SO368 film was used in this series.