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Earth from the Moon: A Different Perspective on the Harvest Moon
Earth from the Moon: A Different Perspective on the Harvest Moon Click here to view full image (296 kb)

The Moon (or Luna) has occupied a prominent place in myth and folklore throughout human history. From mid-August to mid-October the Moon rises at almost the same time every evening in the northern mid-latitudes. The bright disk of Luna provides enough dependable light at this time of year to allow longer days for harvesting crops—which has lead to the “Harvest Moon” of numerous songs, stories, paintings and photographs. The Moon also inspired the most ambitious human endeavor to date—landing astronauts on its surface to examine our closest celestial neighbor directly. Where were you on July 20, 1969? If you were alive and sentient that day, you probably were glued to a television set somewhere on the planet—at home with your family, gazing avidly through a storefront window, or gathered with friends at a community center or vacation cottage.

America and much of the world watched, awestruck, as astronauts landed on the Moon and looked back at Earth. Together with astronaut Neil Armstrong, humanity indeed took a giant leap forward that day. Images taken by the Apollo astronauts helped humans break through their restrictive worldview to see the Earth as it was—a fragile water planet with a few land masses, floating in the void of space. In much the same way that the Harvest Moon illuminates our planet, reflected light from the Earth (“Earthshine”) illuminates the dark portion of the crescent Moon.

This image from Apollo 11 shows the Earth rising over the limb of the Moon much as the Harvest Moon does from our planetary perspective. While the Harvest Moon has helped humans alter their local ecosystems for agriculture, images such as this looking “back home” helped raise awareness of the Earth’s planetary ecosystem. The Apollo 11 images provided a global backdrop for the building U.S. environmental movement, including a surge of citizen-led environmental cleanups in the 1960s and 70s, and implementation of key national environmental policies.

Astronaut photograph AS11-44-6548 was acquired in July of 1969 with a Hasselblad film camera. The image is provided by the Earth Observations and Image Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.

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