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Emily LakdawallaMay 22, 2010

Akatsuki captures goodbye shots of Earth

Three of Akatsuki's six science instruments have now checked in as operating normally, producing lovely photos of the receding homeworld. They were taken at around 20:50 on May 21 (I think that is Japan time, so it would be 11:50 UT if that were true). At the time, Akatsuki was about 250,000 kilometers from Earth, which subtended about 3 degrees of its field of view.

More importantly, Akatsuki is receding from Earth's night side, so the view is of a thinly lit crescent -- very pretty.

Earth as seen from Akatsuki's IR1 camera

JAXA / ISAS

Earth as seen from Akatsuki's IR1 camera
As Akatsuki sped away from Earth, it captured "First Light" images with its optical instruments pointed at its home planet in an extreme crescent phase. This view is from the IR1 camera, which captures images at a near-infrared wavelength of 0.9 microns.

The third instrument is a longwave IR one. It had the identical view of Earth, lit as a crescent by the Sun, but this wavelength is dominated by thermal emission from Earth's surface and clouds, so we can see the whole globe.

Earth as seen from Akatsuki's LIR camera

JAXA / ISAS

Earth as seen from Akatsuki's LIR camera
As Akatsuki sped away from Earth, it captured "First Light" images with its optical instruments pointed at its home planet in an extreme crescent phase. This view is from the LIR or Longwave IR camera, which captures images at a wavelength of 10 microns.

Read more: pics of Earth by planetary missions, pretty pictures, mission status, Akatsuki (Planet-C), Earth

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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