The Moon must find photobombing funny. Last week, for the second time in less than a year, while a NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite was trying to observe the Earth’s atmosphere, the Moon swung in for a brief but remarkable interruption.
DSCOVR orbits about one million miles above Earth, nearly 750,000 miles further away than the Moon. From this distance, the satellite uses a four-megapixel CCD camera and telescope — called the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) — to keep a constant perspective on the planet’s illuminated side, monitoring ozone, vegetation, cloud height, and atmospheric aerosols. By maintaining focus on the Earth during daylight, EPIC captures data on daily variations across the globe — but every so often, something gets in the way.
“For the second time in the life of DSCOVR, the Moon moved between the spacecraft and Earth,” Adam Szabo, DSCOVR project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a NASA press release. “The project recorded this event on July 5 with the same cadence and spatial resolution as the first ‘lunar photobomb’ of last year.”
Last year’s photobomb, which occurred on July 16, saw the Moon sneak in between Earth and DSCOVR in a diagonal line as EPIC was observing the Pacific Ocean. This year’s images reveal Australia, the Pacific, Asia, the Middle East, and the horn of Africa in the backdrop.
EPIC regularly snaps ten images using filters from ultraviolet to infrared to make various scientific measurements. To construct the natural-color images of Earth, scientists combine three monochrome images – red, green, and blue – taken by EPIC in rapid succession.