As the moon orbits the Earth it occasionally
passes through the Earth’s shadow resulting in a spectacular change in the moons appearance
for a short time. This event is called a lunar eclipse and it happens at least twice a year
providing a rare show that’s worth staying awake for. But what would a lunar eclipse
look like if you were on the moon? From that perspective you would actually be viewing
a solar eclipse with the Earth blocking the Sun for a short period of time. The view would
be spectacular but there’s more to it than that. Having such a large scale lights out
on the moon give scientists a unique opportunity to study the moons surface and NASA’s lunar
reconnaissance orbiter is in a position just that. So what exactly does LRO plan to study?
When the Sun is obscured the moon cools down but not every area cools at the same rate.
Rough areas of the moon, with large rocks and boulders cool down more slowly than areas
of fewer large rocks. By measuring the temperature of the moon as it cools scientists can identify
which areas are rougher than others. Earth based telescopes have been doing something
like this for years but there so far away that its hard to get a good view. LRO’s Diviner
instrument on the other hand can measure temperature at an extremely high resolution giving scientists
a first ever up close measurement of this kind. By taking these measurements scientists
can infer the size and density of moon rocks on a very small scale, teaching them new things
about the moons surface. And while they might not be able to get a view of the solar eclipse
from the moon they’ll still get a look at the moon that’s just as exciting.