Astronomy Picture of the Day
March 6, 2013

Flare-like Light on the Lunar Horizon
Flare-like Light on the Lunar Horizon

Credits: NASA/JPL-Apollo 11 Crew - Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal; inset: Lunar and Planetary Institute; additional process.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF

Today's APOD is an historical picture taken by the NASA - Apollo 11 Astronaut "Buzz" Aldrin from his own window; it forms part of a five-frames panorama and it shows the Lunar Surface just after landing, with the Lunar Module shadow and the Lunar Horizon.

The "Flare-like Light" that is very well visible on the right (Dx) side of the frame, very close to the Horizon, is one of the many "misteries" that were found during the analysis of the whole Apollo - Moon Collection. Said that, the question is (relatively...) "simple": is this "Flare-like Light" a real - and, perhaps, just "temporary" - Feature of the Lunar Surface (a "flare", for instance, like it was originally speculated by Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF, and then confirmed by a former Member of the Lunar and Planetary Institute), or is it just one of the very many image-artifacts (---> such as, basically, "defects" of the picture caused by some imperfection in the camera lenses and/or in the film itself) that can also be found in the Apollo - Moon Collection?

Of course we, as IPF, do not have a final answer to this question and, apparently, nobody does (even though a former NASA's Image Technician wrote us saying that the "shining light" was a true Surface Feature and, in his opinion, "...the result of Sunlight that was illuminating a distant - but highly reflective - boulder...". An opinion, this one, that we deeply respect but, honestly speaking, that we also consider extremely unlikely: consider, in fact, that no light whatsoever is visible in that precise spot in the frame that follows this one - such as AS 11 37-5456 -; a frame that was taken only a few seconds after AS 11 37-5455. Now, if this "light" was really just a reflection caused by Sunlight illuminating an highly reflective boulder, it is logical and reasonable to assume that the "reflection" should have still been very well visible over there, even a few seconds (and, maybe, also for a few minutes) after the time when "Buzz" took the first picture of his "Window Panorama". But this - we repeat: reasonable and logical - "circumstance", as a matter of fact, did not happen. The Flare-like Light (or the reflection, if you prefer) vanished very quickly. Why? Of course no answer even to this last question was ever given.

Anyway, the "Flare-like Light" (which may also look like a "Metallic Reflection" in the LPI frame) is there and, in a way, it keeps "asking" us to be recognized and identified, beyond any reasonable doubt, for what that it really was. Maybe, in the Future, we shall know more. Or, maybe (and most likely), the "Flare-like Light" shall remain a Lunar Mistery forever...

This bigger picture (which is an Original NASA - APOLLO 11 Spacecraft color frame published on the NASAApollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal with the ID n. AS 11-37-5455) has been additionally processed and then re-colorized in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Apollo 11 Lunar Module and then looked outside, towards the Surface and Horizon of the Moon), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team. Different colors, as well as different shades of the same color, mean, among other things, the existence of different Elements (Minerals) present on the Surface of the Moon, each having a different Albedo (---> Reflectivity) and Chemical Composition.

The smaller (inset) picture, is also an Original NASA - APOLLO 11 Spacecraft color frame published by the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) on the Apollo Image Atlas with the ID n. AS 11-37-5455. This second picture HAS NOT been additionally processed nor re-colorized by Lunar Explorer Italia.

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