Tags: lunar | eclipse

Lunar Eclipse to Leave NASA Moon Probe in the Dark

By Michael Mullins   |   Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 12:02 PM

The lunar eclipse, which will take place in the pre-dawn hours next Tuesday, will leave NASA's moon probe in the dark for an extended period of time later in the month.

The $504 million Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which is about the size of a small car, operates on batteries that rely on sunlight for energy, Space.com reported.

NASA scientists say they're doing all they can to ensure the lapse in energy is temporary.

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"For quite a while, people in LRO have been analyzing what's going to happen during this eclipse," Noah Petro, LRO deputy project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a statement.

"We're taking precautions to make sure everything is fine," Petro added. "We're turning off the instruments and will monitor the spacecraft every few hours when it's visible from Earth."

The concern is that the NASA spacecraft might not be able to endure a lengthy eclipse because it was not designed to withstand the prolonged cold associated with the absence of sunlight, CBS News reported.

Since its launched in June 2009, the moon probe has reportedly explored the lunar surface in unprecedented detail.

The eclipse itself, so long as the weather is clear, will be visible to those living in the Western Hemisphere for a 78-minute period of time, beginning at 3:06 a.m. EST and ending at 4:24 a.m. EST, Space.com noted.

The moon probe is not expected to black-out during the eclipse, but rather at a later date on or before April 21.

"The spacecraft will be going straight from the moon's shadow to the Earth's shadow while it orbits during the eclipse," according to Petro.

Next week's eclipse will be the much anticipated "blood moon" eclipse, in which the lunar surface adopts a shade of reddish-orange as the Earth casts its shadow on the moon. It will be the first of four such astronomical events to take place over the next two years.

Often associated with the supernatural, this cycle of blood moon eclipses is of particular religious significance for some, since all four blood moons coincide with major Jewish feast days between 2014 and 2015.

According to some Christians, the blood moon prophecy suggests the second coming of Christ.

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