Home science An image of the famous sunrise on Christmas Eve | Human...

An image of the famous sunrise on Christmas Eve | Human world


Half of the Earth is floating in the black sky over the gray moon's cratered surface.

December 24, 1968, from the crew of Apollo 8. Isn’t she beautiful? It’s not really an Earthly Sunrise, of course. As seen from any spot on the near side of the moon, the Earth does not rise or set, but simply hangs in one place in the moon’s sky. The astronauts saw the rise of the Earth because they were moving in a spacecraft above the surface of the moon.

On Christmas Eve 1968, William Anders, aboard the Apollo 8 spacecraft, pointed his camera at Earth and took this now legendary image. It was an image that showed humans a new perspective, with the moon in the foreground and the Earth floating in distant space. The iconic image helped stimulate the environmental movement.

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NASA’s Science Visual Studio released the video below on the forty-fifth anniversary of the image now known as “Earthrise.” The Apollo 8 site was recreated and what the astronauts saw through the windows of the spacecraft and matched it to the sound from the flight.

You can hear the voices of the Apollo 8 Astronauts: Captain Frank Borman and crew members William A. Anders and James A. Lovell. On the fourth orbit of the astronauts of the Moon, Bormann rotated their spacecraft, putting them in a position to capture Earth upwards above the lunar horizon. The video conveys the exciting moments as they are surprised by the view for the first time and struggle to get a color film to capture the important photo, while joking that the photo was not part of their schedule.

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Dan Rather described the iconic image in his book, What unites us. It explains how a peaceful Earth captures in the darkness of space and what was really happening on the planet at that moment in history:

This very calm and breathtaking photo was taken at the end of a tumultuous year. It was Christmas Eve 1968, but from there you would never know that a hot war was raging in Vietnam or that the Cold War was dividing Europe. You will not know the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Bobby Kennedy. From this distance, people are invisible, as are cities, countries and national borders. Everything that separates us ethnically, culturally, politically and spiritually is absent from the picture. What we see is a fragile planet making its way through the expansion of space.

With the click of the shutter button, our spaceship, Earth and everyone on board, has been captured by early humans venturing beyond the limits of Earth’s gravity and giving us a better picture of our home.

In the black sky, a green glowing streak widens at one end.

Apollo 8 returns to Earth’s atmosphere, as photographed from a US Air Force KC-135A aircraft at 40,000 feet. Photo via elakdawalla on Twitter.

Bottom line: Earthrise is an iconic image taken by astronaut William Anders in the fourth orbit of the Moon aboard Apollo 8 on December 24, 1968.

Click here to read more details about NASA’s visualization.

Deborah Bird

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