Moon Magic: Researchers Develop New Tool To Visualize Past, Future Lunar Eclipses (w/ Video)

Jun 29, 2009
The top row of images is comprised of digital photographs taken from Troy, N.Y. of the Feb. 21, 2008 lunar eclipse. The bottom row of images is comprised of computer simulations rendered by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Lunar eclipses are well-documented throughout human history. The rare and breathtaking phenomena, which occur when the moon passes into the Earth’s shadow and seemingly changes shape, color, or disappears from the night sky completely, caught the attention of poets, farmers, leaders, and scientists alike.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a new method for using computer graphics to simulate and render an accurate of a lunar eclipse. The model uses celestial geometry of the sun, Earth, and moon, along with data for the Earth’s atmosphere and the moon’s peculiar optical properties to create picture-perfect images of lunar eclipses.

The computer-generated images, which are virtually indistinguishable from actual photos of eclipses, offer a chance to look back into history at famous eclipses, or peek at future eclipses scheduled to occur in the coming years and decades. The model can also be configured to show how the eclipse would appear from any geographical perspective on Earth — the same eclipse would look different depending if the viewer was in New York, Seattle, or Rome.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

“Other researchers have rendered the , the moon, and sunsets, but this is the first time anyone has rendered lunar eclipses,” said Barbara Cutler, assistant professor of computer science at Rensselaer, who supervised the study. “Our models may help with investigations into historical , and they could also be of interest to artists looking to add this special effect to their toolbox.”

Graduate student Theodore C. Yapo presented the study, titled “Rendering Lunar Eclipses,” in late May at the Graphics Interface 2009 conference.

The appearance of can vary considerably, ranging from nearly invisible jet black to deep red, rust, to bright copper-red or orange. The appearance depends on several different factors, including how sunlight is refracted and scattered in the Earth’s atmosphere. Yapo and Cutler combined and configured models for sunlight, the solar system, as well as the different layers and different effects of the Earth’s atmosphere, to develop their lunar eclipse models.

For the study, Yapo and Cutler compared digital photos of the Feb. 21, 2008, total lunar eclipse with computer-rendered models of the same eclipse. The rendered images were nearly indistinguishable from the photos.

Another model they created was a rendering of the expected 2010 lunar eclipse. Yapo said he looks forward to taking photographs of the event and comparing them to the renderings. One potential hiccup, he said, is the April eruption of Mt. Redoubt in Alaska - volcanic dust in the Earth’s stratosphere can make a lunar eclipse noticeably darker and more brown. Yapo and Cutler’s models can account for this dust, but they performed their simulation prior to the eruption, and assumed a low-dust atmosphere.

The research paper can be viewed at:
www.cs.rpi.edu/graphics/eclipse_gi09/

Provided by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (news : web)

Explore further: SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Get Ready For Total Lunar Eclipse Wednesday Night

Feb 19, 2008

In the late night hours of Feb. 20, 2008, a total lunar eclipse will dazzle the night sky. And this lunar eclipse may be worth staying up for, because it will be the last one until December 2010.

Total Lunar Eclipse

Feb 14, 2008

On Wednesday evening, February 20th, the full Moon over the Americas will turn a delightful shade of red and possibly turquoise, too. It's a total lunar eclipse—the last one until Dec. 2010.

Lunar Eclipse

Feb 13, 2007

Picture this: The year is 2025 and you're on the moon. "Home" is 100 meters away—an outpost on the rim of Shackleton Crater. NASA started building it five years earlier, and it is growing fast. You're one ...

A Solar Eclipse on the Moon

Apr 21, 2005

NASA is planning to send people back to the Moon. Target date: 2015 or so. Too bad they won't be there this Sunday because, on April 24th, there's going to be a solar eclipse, and you can only see it from ...

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

Dec 19, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

Dec 19, 2014

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

Dec 19, 2014

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

Dec 19, 2014

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

Spinning up a dust devil on Mars

Dec 19, 2014

Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.