Earthrise, taken on December 24, 1968, by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders.
The first photograph of Earth from the Moon taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966, reprocessed by the LOIRP for comparison.

Earthrise is a photograph of Earth and some of the Moon's surface that was taken from lunar orbit by astronaut William Anders on December 24, 1968, during the Apollo 8 mission.[1][2][3] Nature photographer Galen Rowell described it as "the most influential environmental photograph ever taken".[4]

Anders' color image had been preceded by a crude black-and-white 1966 raster image taken by the Lunar Orbiter 1 robotic probe, the first American spacecraft to orbit the Moon.


The conversation between Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders, during the taking of the Earthrise photograph

Earthrise was taken by astronaut William Anders during the Apollo 8 mission, the first crewed voyage to orbit the Moon.[4][5] Before Anders found a suitable 70 mm color film, mission commander Frank Borman took a black-and-white photograph of the scene, with the Earth's terminator touching the horizon. The land mass position and cloud patterns in this image are the same as those of the color photograph entitled Earthrise.[6]

The photograph was taken from lunar orbit on December 24, 1968, 16:00 UTC,[7] with a highly modified Hasselblad 500 EL with an electric drive. The camera had a simple sighting ring rather than the standard reflex viewfinder and was loaded with a 70 mm film magazine containing custom Ektachrome film developed by Kodak. Immediately prior, Anders had been photographing the lunar surface with a 250 mm lens; the lens was subsequently used for the Earthrise images.[8]

Anders: Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! There's the Earth coming up. Wow, that's pretty.
Borman: Hey, don't take that, it's not scheduled. (joking)[1]
Anders: (laughs) You got a color film, Jim?
            Hand me that roll of color quick, would you...
Lovell: Oh man, that's great!

There were many images taken at that point. The mission audio tape establishes several photographs were taken, on Borman's orders, with the enthusiastic concurrence of Jim Lovell and Anders. Anders took the first color shot, then Lovell who notes the setting (1/250th of a second at f/11), followed by Anders with another very similar shot (AS08-14-2384).

A black and white reproduction of Borman's image appeared in his 1988 autobiography, captioned, "One of the most famous pictures in photographic history – taken after I grabbed the camera away from Bill Anders". Borman noted that this was the image "the Postal Service used on a stamp, and few photographs have been more frequently reproduced".[9]: 212  The photograph reproduced is not the same image as the Anders photograph; aside from the orientation, the cloud patterns differ. Borman later recanted this story and agreed that the black and white shot was also taken by Anders, based on evidence presented by transcript and a video produced by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio employee, Ernie Wright.[8]

The stamp issue reproduces the cloud, color, and crater patterns of the Anders picture. Anders is described by Borman as holding "a masters degree in nuclear engineering"; Anders was thus tasked as "the scientific crew member ... also performing the photography duties that would be so important to the Apollo crew who actually landed on the Moon".[9]: 193 

On the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission in 2018, Anders stated: "It really undercut my religious beliefs. The idea that things rotate around the pope and up there is a big supercomputer wondering whether Billy was a good boy yesterday? It doesn't make any sense. I became a big buddy of [atheist scientist] Richard Dawkins."[10]


AS08-14-2383 (21713574299), from which Earthrise was cropped. The photo is displayed here in its original orientation as seen by the crew of Apollo 8. Lunar north is up.[11]

The original image was rotated 95 degrees clockwise to produce the published Earthrise orientation to better convey the sense of the Earth rising over the moonscape. The published photograph shows Earth rotated clockwise approximately 135° from the typical north–south-Pole-oriented perspective, with south to the left.


In Life's 100 Photographs that Changed the World, wilderness photographer Galen Rowell called Earthrise "the most influential environmental photograph ever taken".[12][13] Another author called its appearance the beginning of the environmental movement.[14] Fifty years to the day after taking the photo, William Anders observed, "We set out to explore the moon and instead discovered the Earth."[15]

In October 2018, the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN) of the International Astronomical Union named two of the craters seen in the photo Anders' Earthrise and 8 Homeward. The craters had previously been designated only with letters.[16]

Joni Mitchell sings on "Refuge of the Roads": In a highway service station / Over the month of June / Was a photograph of the Earth / Taken coming back from the Moon / And you couldn't see a city / On that marbled bowling ball / Or a forest or a highway / Or me here least of all …


U.S. postage stamp (Scott #1371)

In 1969, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp (Scott# 1371) commemorating the Apollo 8 flight around the Moon. The stamp featured a detail (in color) of the Earthrise photograph, and the words, "In the beginning God...", recalling the Apollo 8 Genesis reading.[17]

2013 simulation

In 2013, in commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission, NASA issued a video about the taking of the photograph.[18] This computer-generated visualization used data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, which had provided detailed images of the lunar surface that could be matched with those taken every 20 seconds by an automatic camera on Apollo 8. The resulting video, re-creating what the astronauts would have seen (rotated 90 degrees clockwise to match the perspective presented in the photograph), was synchronized with the recording of the crew's conversation as they became the first humans to witness an Earthrise. The video included explanatory narration written and read by Andrew Chaikin.[19] Chaikin writes that all the photographs of the rising Earth on Apollo 8's fourth orbit were taken by Anders.[20]

A simulation of what the Apollo 8 crew saw as the Earth rose above the lunar horizon during their fourth orbit around the Moon that pauses to overlay two photographs taken by the crew and includes a clock overlay

Potential earthrises as seen from the Moon's surface

The Earth straddling the limb of the Moon, as seen from above Compton crater. Taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2015.

The Earth "rose" because the spacecraft was traveling over the Moon's surface. An earthrise that might be witnessed from the surface of the Moon would be quite unlike moonrises on Earth. Because the Moon is tidally locked with the Earth, one side of the Moon always faces toward Earth. Interpretation of this fact would lead one to believe that the Earth's position is fixed on the lunar sky and no earthrises can occur; however, the Moon librates slightly, which causes the Earth to draw a Lissajous figure on the sky. This figure fits inside a rectangle 15°48' wide and 13°20' high (in angular dimensions), while the angular diameter of the Earth as seen from Moon is only about 2°. This means that earthrises are visible near the edge of the Earth-observable surface of the Moon (about 20% of the surface). Since a full libration cycle takes about 27 days, earthrises are very slow, and it takes about 48 hours for Earth to clear its diameter.[21] During the course of the month-long lunar orbit, an observer would additionally witness a succession of "Earth phases", much like the lunar phases seen from Earth. That is what accounts for the half-illuminated globe, the ashen glow, seen in the photograph.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Chasing the Moon: Transcript, Part Two". American Experience. PBS. 10 July 2019. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  2. ^ Overbye, Dennis (21 December 2018). "Apollo 8's Earthrise: The Shot Seen Round the World - Half a century ago today, a photograph from the moon helped humans rediscover Earth". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  3. ^ Boulton, Matthew Myer; Heithaus, Joseph (24 December 2018). "We Are All Riders on the Same Planet - Seen from space 50 years ago, Earth appeared as a gift to preserve and cherish. What happened?". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  4. ^ a b Rowell, Galen. "The Earthrise Photograph". Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  5. ^ Nemiroff, R.; Bonnell, J., eds. (December 14, 2005). "Earthrise". Astronomy Picture of the Day. NASA.
  6. ^ Poole, Robert (2008). Earthrise: How Man First Saw the Earth. New Haven, Connecticut, USA: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-13766-4.
  7. ^ The mission transcript (day 4, p. 114) shows the shot taken at 03 03 49 (mission time 3d3h49), and the launch was on 1968-12-21 12:51 UTC.
  8. ^ a b Chaikin, Andrew (January–February 2018). "Who Took the Legendary Earthrise Photo From Apollo 8?". Smithsonian.
  9. ^ a b Borman, Frank (1988). Countdown: An Autobiography. New York, NY, USA: Morrow (Silver Arrow Books). ISBN 0-688-07929-6.
  10. ^ Earthrise: how the iconic image changed the world The Guardian, 2018-12-24.
  11. ^ "Earthrise - Apollo 8". NASA on The Commons. NASA – via Flickr.
  12. ^ Rowel, Galen. "100 Photographs that Changed the World by Life". The Digital Journalist.
  13. ^ Widmer, Ted (24 December 2018). "What Did Plato Think the Earth Looked Like? - For millenniums, humans have tried to imagine the world in space. Fifty years ago, we finally saw it". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  14. ^ Wilford, John Noble (July 14, 2009). "On Hand for Space History, as Superpowers Spar". The New York Times. Retrieved April 24, 2011.
  15. ^ Anders, Bill (December 24, 2018). "50 Years After 'Earthrise,' a Christmas Eve Message from Its Photographer". Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  16. ^ Schulz, Rita. "Lunar craters named in honor of Apollo 8". EurekAlert!. International Astronomical Union. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
  17. ^ "Apollo 8 Issue – Postal Bulletin: March 27, 1969". Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Archived from the original on February 2, 2016. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
  18. ^ NASA. "45th anniversary of the Earthrise Photo". YouTube.
  19. ^ Steigerwald, Bill (December 20, 2013). "NASA Releases New Earthrise Simulation Video". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
  20. ^ Chaikin, Andrew. "Who Took the Legendary Earthrise Photo From Apollo 8?". Smithsonian. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  21. ^ Makowiecki, Piotr (1985). Pomyśl zanim odpowiesz (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". ISBN 83-214-0419-7.

External links

Media files used on this page

Taken by Apollo 8 crewmember Bill Anders on December 24, 1968, at mission time 075:49:07 [8] (16:40 UTC), while in orbit around the Moon, showing the Earth rising for the third time above the lunar horizon. The lunar horizon is approximately 780 kilometers from the spacecraft. Width of the photographed area at the lunar horizon is about 175 kilometers. [9] The land mass visible just above the terminator line is west Africa. Note that this phenomenon is only visible to an observer in motion relative to the lunar surface. Because of the Moon's synchronous rotation relative to the Earth (i.e., the same side of the Moon is always facing Earth), the Earth appears to be stationary (measured in anything less than a geological timescale) in the lunar "sky". In order to observe the effect of Earth rising or setting over the Moon's horizon, an observer must travel towards or away from the point on the lunar surface where the Earth is most directly overhead (centred in the sky). Otherwise, the Earth's apparent motion/visible change will be limited to: 1. Growing larger/smaller as the orbital distance between the two bodies changes. 2. Slight apparent movement of the Earth due to the eccenticity of the Moon's orbit, the effect being called libration. 3. Rotation of the Earth (the Moon's rotation is synchronous relative to the Earth, the Earth's rotation is not synchronous relative to the Moon). 4. Atmospheric & surface changes on Earth (i.e.: weather patterns, changing seasons, etc.). Two craters, visible on the image were named 8 Homeward and Anders' Earthrise in honor of Apollo 8 by IAU in 2018. [10]
Crab Nebula.jpg
This is a mosaic image, one of the largest ever taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, of the Crab Nebula, a six-light-year-wide expanding remnant of a star's supernova explosion. Japanese and Chinese astronomers recorded this violent event in 1054 CE, as did, almost certainly, Native Americans.

The orange filaments are the tattered remains of the star and consist mostly of hydrogen. The rapidly spinning neutron star embedded in the center of the nebula is the dynamo powering the nebula's eerie interior bluish glow. The blue light comes from electrons whirling at nearly the speed of light around magnetic field lines from the neutron star. The neutron star, like a lighthouse, ejects twin beams of radiation that appear to pulse 30 times a second due to the neutron star's rotation. A neutron star is the crushed ultra-dense core of the exploded star.

The Crab Nebula derived its name from its appearance in a drawing made by Irish astronomer Lord Rosse in 1844, using a 36-inch telescope. When viewed by Hubble, as well as by large ground-based telescopes such as the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, the Crab Nebula takes on a more detailed appearance that yields clues into the spectacular demise of a star, 6,500 light-years away.

The newly composed image was assembled from 24 individual Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 exposures taken in October 1999, January 2000, and December 2000. The colors in the image indicate the different elements that were expelled during the explosion. Blue in the filaments in the outer part of the nebula represents neutral oxygen, green is singly-ionized sulfur, and red indicates doubly-ionized oxygen.
Author/Creator: ESO, European Southern Observatory, Licence: CC BY 4.0
Artist's impression of "the oldest star of our Galaxy": HE 1523-0901
  • About 13.2 billion years old
  • Approximately 7500 light years far from Earth
  • Published as part of Hamburg/ESO Survey in the May 10 2007 issue of The Astrophysical Journal
Author/Creator: Me, Licence: Copyrighted free use
SVG replacement for File:Spaceship and the Sun.jpg. A stylized illustration of a spaceship and the sun, based on the description of the emblem of the fictional Galactic Empire in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series ("The golden globe with its conventionalized rays, and the oblique cigar shape that was a space vessel"). This image could be used as a icon for science-fiction related articles.
This view of the rising Earth greeted the Apollo 8 astronauts as they came from behind the Moon after the fourth nearside orbit. Earth is about five degrees above the horizon in the photo. The unnamed surface features in the foreground are near the eastern limb of the Moon as viewed from Earth. The lunar horizon is approximately 780 kilometers from the spacecraft. Width of the photographed area at the horizon is about 175 kilometers. On the Earth 240,000 miles away, the sunset terminator bisects Africa.
Solar system.jpg
This is a montage of planetary images taken by spacecraft managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. Included are (from top to bottom) images of Mercury, Venus, Earth (and Moon), Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The spacecraft responsible for these images are as follows:
  • the Mercury image was taken by Mariner 10,
  • the Venus image by Magellan,
  • the Earth and Moon images by Galileo,
  • the Mars image by Mars Global Surveyor,
  • the Jupiter image by Cassini, and
  • the Saturn, Uranus and Neptune images by Voyager.
  • Pluto is not shown as it is no longer a planet. The inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Moon, and Mars) are roughly to scale to each other; the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) are roughly to scale to each other. PIA 00545 is the same montage with Neptune shown larger in the foreground. Actual diameters are given below:
  • Sun (to photosphere) 1,392,684 km
  • Mercury 4,879.4 km
  • Venus 12,103.7 km
  • Earth 12,756.28 km
  • Moon 3,476.2 km
  • Mars 6,804.9 km
  • Jupiter 142,984 km
  • Saturn 120,536 km
  • Uranus 51,118 km
  • Neptune 49,528 km
Earthrise conversation.ogg
The conversation between Frank Borman and William Anders, during the taking of the Earthrise photograph. I did some noise reduction.
AS08-14-2383 (21713574299).jpg
Earthrise - Apollo 8 Hasselblad image from film magazine 14/B - Lunar Orbit, Trans-Earth Coast
Scott 1371, Apollo 8.jpg
United States postage stamp (Scott #1371) celebrating Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the Moon. Design is based on a photograph taken by the astronauts.
A simulation of what the Apollo 8 crew saw as the Earth rose above the lunar horizon during their fourth orbit around the Moon. Pauses to overlay two photos taken by the crew. Includes a clock overlay.
Earthrise over Compton crater -LRO full res - edit1.jpg
The Earth straddling the limb of the Moon, as seen from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter above Compton crater. The shadow in the foreground is from the crater's central peaks, while the mountains just above it can be seen in the 10 o'clock position within the crater in this image or the 12 o'clock position in this image. The center of the Earth in this view is 4.04°N, 12.44°W, just off the coast of Liberia. The large tan area in the upper right is the Sahara desert, and just beyond is Saudia Arabia. The Atlantic and Pacific coasts of South America are visible to the left.

From the Earth, the daily Moonrise and Moonset are always inspiring moments. However, lunar astronauts will see something very different: viewed from the lunar surface, the Earth never rises or sets. Since the Moon is tidally locked, the Earth is always in the same spot above the horizon, varying only a small amount with the slight wobble of the Moon. The Earth may not move across the "sky", but the view is not static. Future astronauts will see the continents rotate in and out of view and the ever changing pattern of clouds will always catch one's eye. Well at least on the nearside, but what about the farside? The Earth is never visible from the farside, imagine a sky with no Earth or Moon - what will farside explorers think with no Earth overhead?

This image was taken when LRO was 134 km above the farside crater Compton (51.8°N, 124.1°E). Capturing an image of the Earth and Moon with LROC is a complicated task. First the spacecraft must be rolled to the side (in this case 67°), then the spacecraft slews with the direction of travel to maximize the width of the lunar horizon in the NAC image. All this takes place while LRO is traveling over 1600 meters per second (faster than 3580 mph) relative to the lunar surface below the spacecraft! As a result of these three motions and the fact that the Narrow Angle Camera is a line scanner the raw image geometry is distorted. Also, because the Moon and Earth are so far apart, the geometric correction is different for each body. Reconstruction of the Earth-Moon image is not a simple matter – and that is just to get the black and white image!

What about color? The WAC images the same scene repeatedly while the NAC scans across the scene just once. Since the NAC pixel scale is 75 times smaller than the WAC pixel scale, a straight Earth and Moon composite would show a very fuzzy Earth and a sharp Moon. The LROC team took advantage of the multiple WAC images of the Earth to create a sharpened WAC Earth. For each WAC pixel the Earth was imaged between 20 and 50 times (the WAC FOV moved only a small fraction of a pixel between each image), and these multiple looks were combined (for the Earth only, the Moon as shown is NAC). The colors are only approximately what an intrepid explorer would see from the Moon because the human eye is fully sensitive to all colors across the visible wavelength range, whereas the WAC sees through a set of narrow band filters (the view here combines the 604 nm (orange), 556 nm (yellow-green), and 415 nm (violet) bands displayed in red, green, and blue, respectively).

The Earth is much brighter (higher reflectance) than the Moon, especially from this angle; the Earth was captured near noon while the limb of the Moon was just appearing from the shadows of night, so the Moon was relatively dim. In the opening image the Moon and Earth were contrast-stretched separately to bring out details on the lunar surface. The two contrast stretch makes for a spectacular image, but it may be misleading in a purely scientific sense.

The sharp black outline across the bottom of the Earth is from mountains still on the night side of the lunar terminator.

A blog post by Emily Lakdawalla discusses the creation of this image.

The original NASA image was converted from TIFF to JPEG format by the uploader.
First View of Earth from Moon - reprocessed wide.jpg
This restored old image of Earth was released by NASA in 2008. The Lunar Orbiter 1 spacecraft took the iconic photograph of Earth rising above the lunar surface in 1966. Using refurbished machinery and modern digital technology, NASA produced the image at a much higher resolution than was possible when it was originally taken.