The next image for examination is from magazine 151. AS17-
Figure 4.9.43: AS17-
Before discussing anything else about this photograph, it is worth drawing attention to what it is. We have become accustomed to seeing Earthrise images from Apollo, but this one is the start of a sequence of Earthset pictures, ie it is looking back at the Earth as it disappears behind the Earth. The next few images in that sequence show an Earth sinking below the lunar horizon, increasingly obscured by mountains and crater rims.
As far as timing the image is concerned, zooming closely in on the photograph shows that the west coast of north America is still just visible, which would give a time, as shown by Stellarium, of around 23:30. The date is identified by the weather patterns visible on the NOAA mosaic, which is dated the 10th and shows patterns not visible on those formations on other days. As before, the IR mosaics have been included thanks to a lack of southern hemisphere data for the 10th. The pass covering the area of the terminator would have been around 18:00 on the 9th, on the visible image, and 06:00 on the 11th for the IR.
We also have Jack Schmitt, who helpfully asks Capcom to:
“...log us a picture of the Earth at 92:40 on mag Oscar Oscar”
Magazine Oscar Oscar is number 151, and 92:40, thanks to the time adjustment, is 90:00 MET, or 23:30 GMT.
Schmitt also says that:
"You've got a lot healthy weather out there in the Pacific today. Looks like most of those things we talked about yesterday, up in the Hawaii region and also in the south, have intensified"
This time of the image is also recorded as
“...about 3 minutes until LOS"
putting the craft in just the right place for a few follow-
The most obvious feature that can be made out on both the mosaics and the Apollo image is the large spiral of cloud towards the top of the Earth, shown by the red arrow. It is Gene Cernan who, on the next lunar orbit at 91:37 MET (c. 01:00 GMT on the 11th) gives us some more detail on it:
"...there is really one heck of a big low-
after an interruption from Capcom, during which he confirms he is using binoculars to see this, he continues, saying that he has lost sight of the continent now, and describing a:
"...tremendous trailing front. Roughly north north-
This large cloud mass is also visible on an ESSA 8 picture, obtained from a Midway Island veteran website described in the introduction to this section. The ESSA image (which has been converted from its original sepia to a slightly clearer monochrome) is shown, together with the relevant part of AS17-
Figure 4.9.45: Part of AS17-
Both the cyclonic cloud mass and the trailing front are very obvious, dominating the north Pacific.
An interesting feature of the ESSA image is that it there appear to be the marks of a spiral bound notebook across at least one section of it (the left hand part of the triptych, halfway down the page). It looks very much like a printout (possibly from a fax machine) that has been manually compiled and then photographed. In the interests of continuity, there are other weather systems shown on the Apollo image that are a follow-
Tropical storm Diana is just about coming into view, and is identified by the purple arrow on the western limb. The IR image gives a much sharper view of this emergent storm than is shown by Apollo.
The next photograph to be analysed is also from magazine 151, and is part of a short series taken from the CSM, showing the LM, the lunar horizon, and the Earth hanging just above it. The orientation of the home planet shows that it is an Earthrise image. The LM is still obviously attached here, and there is a later sequence of photographs showing it after separation, which tells us that it must have been taken before 17:20 GMT on the 11th, but obviously after 23:30 on the 10th, the previous Earth images in the magazine.
A time of 17:20 would put the terminator over Africa, and close inspection of this image shows that it still features that spiral storm described so vividly by Cernan. It must, therefore, be taken shortly after the previous image, probably at AOS on orbit 3 at 90h54, or around 00:30 on the 11th, half an hour before Cernan gives us his description of the large storm.
Figure 4.9.46: AS17-
In terms of the weather systems we can see, there is little to add from the previous image.
What is obvious is that the Earth has rotated some distance since then in a manner consistent with roughly an hour's worth of rotation. The crew had, during this orbit, gone from the higher LOI orbit to the lower descent orbit for LM separation, and thus the orbits were still relatively long.
As Cernan observed, the west coast of the US has now disappeared, and Australia is just coming into view on the western limb, which matches the time on Stellarium of 00:30 for the 11th.
NOAA's mosaics are the same ones used before, and the area will have been passed at a correspondingly later time.
We can also make first use of NIMBUS 5 data, even if it is for a very small area. The first image from the newly launched satellite was obtained from orbit 6 on the 11th, an orbit that passed along the west coast of the Americas and over SE Asia. The latter is out of sight from Apollo, but the former is just visible. Figure 4.9.47b shows the Fourmilab prediction of of the sunlit area of the globe at the time of the Apollo image, together with the strip from the NIMBUS 5 ESMR instrument.
Figure 4.9.48: AS17-
Both NOAA mosaics covering this time have been included here (the IR one actually dated the 12th), as the IR one has a better definition of the visible features. The passes over the terminator line are given as roughly 08:00 and 20:00 GMT on the 12th for the infra-
Recording the time of the image requires a little deductive work, as the image is not clear. The main cloud feature dominating the image is the one starting at the equator in the west (green arrow), heads roughly eastwards before looping back on itself in a kind of letter mirrored 'C' formation (blue arrow). The terminator falls some way east of this inverted C.
The location of the blue arrow on the NOAA mosaics suggests that the terminator is perhaps another 20 degrees of longitude to the east. The western end of this long band of cloud meets up with tropical storm Diana (red arrow), now east of Australia. Close examination of the image shows that blue sea is just visible beyond Diana, which suggests that Australia is only just coming into view. This would suggest a time for the photograph of around 01:00 – 01:30 GMT.
The ALSJ gives a specific time for this image as 118:26, which is almost 04:00 GMT. If this were the case, then Australia would be clearly visible. The timeline that has been used so far, however, says that at 04:00 Cernan and Schmitt would have just completed installing the lunar seismic experiment equipment at the ALSEP, not at the flag. The most obvious answer is that the ALSJ is using the GET, which is 2 hours 40 ahead of the timeline and transcripts. If this time difference is removed from the ALSJ time, we get a time of 01:20 GMT, putting the astronauts exactly where the photograph says they should be (at the flag) and the Earth's features exactly as they should be.
This article in ‘Designs’ claims that my interpretation is incorrect, stating that:
“We believe that the above explanation has nothing to do with GMT, or local time for that matter, since the ALSJ GET time of 118:26 simply indicates 118:26 h from lift off (ie the start of the mission), irrespective of the time system used. We believe that a better explanation is the following: one can assume that the Earth image was staged before the start of the mission 118:26 GET [sic]. Hence the “planned” image of the Earth would be 2 h and 40 min behind the actual time and could not correspond to the correct view.”
What they conveniently ignore is that the satellite images could not have been staged in advance, despite their claims that ‘professionals’ could have, and that the astronauts broadcast the taking of these photos on live TV. That broadcast also shows them bending their knees to get the shot, something else the authors failed to notice. In ‘Apollo: the definitive sourcebook’, in the actual mission transcripts, and in the timeline given by NASA here, the launch delay has been accounted for and their timing agrees with mine.
They also state that NASA have never officially commented on the photo’s authenticity, and that by referring to this study they accept my arguments. Firstly, the ALSJ is hosted by NASA, not run by it. Secondly, they have no need to comment on its authenticity, as they know it’s genuine and taken on the moon. Hilariously, the journal that hosted this article have retracted it, saying that:
“Serious concerns were brought to the attention of the publisher. The article was re-
Well done to whoever complained, and bravo to the journal for retracting it.
The next image comes from a different magazine, number 137, which was taken in EVA 2. AS17-
Figure 4.9.50: AS17-
As with the previous image, there is some detective work to do in the absence of obviously visible land mass (something that automatically points towards a view of the South Pacific in the early hours GMT). The size of the visible disk is narrower than in the previous photograph, which means that it must be later in the mission.
The key areas on the photograph to pinpoint where the terminator is falling are the two lines in the northern tropical area (cyan and magenta), and the purple arrowed lobe of cloud near the western horizon. In the case of the former, following the line of longitude north would put see that line crossing half way through Alaska. The latter clouds are a good 15 degrees east of Australia, which would therefore not be visible. Using Stellarium, we can achieve a configuration of the Earth where Australia is not visible and Alaska just crossed by the terminator as roughly 01:30 GMT. The NOAA times for visible and infra red passes over this area would be approximately 19:00 (on the 12th) and 07:00 (on the 13th) respectively.
At 01:35 on the 13th, we find from the timeline that Cernan and Schmitt are indeed at Station 2 on EVA 2, and they leave it 65 minutes later. A photograph of a damaged LRV fender's repair was taken just before that departure (AS17-
This image contains enough detail to try and examine photographs taken by the ESMR instrument on NIMBUS-
The first thing to note on the MWL image are the latitude and longitude markings, which puts the storm as being at 10 degrees north and 170 degrees east on the 13th of December. If figure 4.9.51 is examined, particularly the NOAA mosaic, then there is indeed a storm there with a similar, but less detailed, configuration as is shown in figure 4.9.52.This storm (identified by the yellow arrow) also has the same overall shape (a sort of extra-
If the corresponding point is searched for on the Apollo image, the same storm pattern can be found, as can the bank of less well defined cloud to the north-
Additional evidence for the time comes from TV signals sent back to Earth from station 2. The ALSJ has video links to some of this TV coverage, and one of them, found here: ALSJ, contains a picture of Earth. A screenshot of from that video is shown below in figure 4.9.53a, together with a zoomed in version of it and the NOAA visible spectrum mosaic from 4.9.51.
The screenshot shows the same scene as was shown in figure 4.9.51, and the text of the broadcast confirms its timing. At 140:37 MET (roughly 02:10) Capcom tell the astronauts:
"..17, if you want to take a minute, you might want to look up in the sky and notice that our camera is taking a beautiful picture of mother Earth...isn't that a beautiful picture of the Pacific there? Ed finally found it"
If the video is watched from the start, the camera operator does take a while to find the image, and the words spoken there coincide with the Earth appearing in shot. The similarity between the video screenshot and the astronaut photographs is undeniable, as is the resemblance to the satellite mosaics. There is a suggestion that the cloud bands marked by the cyan and magenta arrows in this screenshot are slightly shorter than in figure 4.9.51 which would be consistent with the still image being taken earlier in the EVA, but this could also be a product of the poorer quality.
A still from this broadcast also made it into the next day’s newspapers. Figure 4.9.53b shows the New York Daily news, which contains a still from the TV broadcast and details of the exchanges between Houston and the crew on the surface, tellingly published far from the front page.
Stellarium tells us that, at the time of broadcast, Australia was not quite fully in view, and should be visible on the Earth's western limb. There is a suggestion of discolouration that might represent the Australian land mass, but this could also be a product of the treatment the image has had.
The main features of the adjusted Earth image are a band of cloud in the southern Pacific, a pair of cloud bands in the Equatorial region, another clear patch of ocean in the northern Pacific, and a final band of cloud towards the northernmost visible latitudes. It should also be clear that there is a good correspondence with the TV image in figure 4.9.53.
As far as the satellite comparison goes, the bands of cloud seem to correspond to the line of cloud east of Australia (red arrow) and along the equator to the north of Australia (magenta arrow),. There is a suggestion of the north-
The clear patches of ocean match n the screenshot are evidently there in the satellite photograph (green arrows), as is the cloud cover in the extreme north and south (yellow and blue respectively). In short, despite the poor quality of the video still's representation of Earth, there is still a high degree of agreement with the atmospheric features visible on the satellite image that was taken 8 hours before on the 12th (the image from that date being nearer to the time of the Apollo still).
We get another LRV camera view when the crew visit Station 6 at around 162 MET. While Gene and Jack examined “Tracy’s Rock” (the unofficial name for a large mass of material that rolled down the North Massif slope). The camera pans around and eventually manages to find Earth again. Videos of station 6 are on youtube, including this one, as well as at the ALSJ. The time is recorded at 162:42 minutes (according to the transcript), which is 00:15 on the 14th of December. Unfortunately the of this image is even less clear than previous views from the rover, but we can still have a go at identifying what’s there. Figure 4.9.56 shows a still from the transmission, together with a zoomed, cropped and level adjusted view of Earth from it. This is compared with Fourmilab’s Earthview prediction of what should be visible and the satellite view.
Figure 4.9.57: AS17-
The Apollo image is recorded as being from the end of EVA 3. The EVA itself ended at 168h07m MET, or 05:40 GMT on the 14th. The image is recorded by the ALSJ (after subtracting the extra 160 minutes) as 166h53m MET, or about 04:25 GMT on the 14th – just over an hour short of the mission being a week old. Setting Stellarium at this time shows that Australia should just be visible on the western limb of the Earth, and that is exactly what we can see. The slightly less than half full Earth also matches what should be visible, according to Stellarium.
Again, the analysis includes both the IR and visible spectrum images as well as the 3D model (which in the absence of restored data form the 13th uses an image dated the 14th), and these, again show perfect correspondence with what is visible in the Apollo image, despite issues with the data near the southern hemisphere terminator region with the visible spectrum mosaic (the grid overlay is offset by some distance, and there appear to be errors in the data over to the terminator area (over the cloud mass picked out in blue).
Between them, the IR and visible spectrum mosaics provide an exact match. The times their orbital pass over the terminator area would have been made are roughly 07:00 on the 14th and 19:00 on the 13th respectively. The 3D reconstruction’s terminator time is around 19:00 on the 14th. The storm identified by the blue arrow is a particularly good match, as is the multi-
We also have available ESMR images for the 14th, one daylight set of passes covering Australasia and one night-
As with the previous ESMR image the arrows identifying cloud features should only be seen as tentative, but there are features in the same locations as those on the ESSA and Apollo images.
This video clip is recorded as commencing at 170h40m in the ALSJ, but as they are recording GET time 160 minutes ahead, this can be reduced to 168h, or 05:34 on the 14th. At exactly this time in the transcript (and in the video!), Capcom tell the crew:
"And as you guys say farewell to the Moon, we're looking up to the Earth down here"
Shortly after this, Gene Cernan utters the final words as the last man to have his feet on the Moon, stepping back inside the LM for the last time.
As this is only an hour after the previous still image used, the features visible should, image quality permitting, still be broadly visible.
The arrows used in figure 4.9.57 match those used in 4.9.56, with the exception that where it isn't clear where an arrow should go, it has been omitted. Can we be sure that it is an appropriate match? We are relying here on the words spoken on the video matching those of the transcript, which gives a time, and then using that time to see what clouds should be visible, and drawing arrows to what we assume are the same clouds. The argument here is that this is a reasonable use of the evidence to support the suggestion, but it is somewhat circular.
We do have, however, a large mass of cloud in the northern hemisphere (magenta arrow) next to a large band of clear ocean that ends with a band of equatorial cloud (yellow arrow). In the southern hemisphere at the roughly 4 o'clock position there is a distinct and thinner band of cloud corresponding to the blue arrow, and below that is (if it is examined closely) the multi-
Figure 4.9.61: Close up of AS17-
Although the image on the right from the video is much brighter, swamping detail in the dark areas, it is still possible to make out the gap between the multi-
Are we, however, victims of our own prejudice?
In the initial stages of preparing this section, a video was found (since removed by the youtube user) showing this same segment of LRV footage combined with the later footage of the ascent module firing and returning to orbit. With no audio to confirm the timing, it was assumed that the footage showing Earth was done much later. This mistake was compounded by the 160 minute time addition in the ALSJ to effectively infer that the Earth should be showing features visible some 14 hours later. Equipment visible outside the LM was assumed to be that dumped by the astronauts (2 sets of equipment disposals were carried out during preparations for launch to reduce weight), when in fact they were part of experimental equipment.
This led erroneously to the assumption that what was visible in the image was a view of north and south America. On other words, a conclusion was made, and the available evidence was made to fit that conclusion. On closer examination, it was found that while there were broad generalisations that could be made that seemed to provide a good fit, the details, such as those compared in figure 4.9.58, did not stand up to close scrutiny.
Three important lessons can be learned here. Firstly, there is always a danger of making evidence fit the theory, and this is just as unwise for people who don't adhere to conspiracy theories as it is to those who will dismiss this work out of hand.
Secondly: check the data. Check it again. Don't rush to publish until it's right!
Finally: Don't be afraid to admit your errors. There is, to quote the song, always someone somewhere with a big nose who knows. Somebody will remember them and use it as evidence against all your other explanations. In the mind of a conspiracy theorist, one easy mistake will always outweigh 99 perfectly correct answers. I did, at least, double check the facts, which is more than your average conspiracy theorist ever does – if they did, they would have no conspiracy theory.
Having finally left the surface of the moon, the re-
The satellite view (timed at a couple of hours before the broadcast) is complicated by the image errors in the southern hemisphere, and the LRV camera does not show a very clear view of Earth. Despite this, I don’t believe the suggestions I make there as to which weather systems are identifiable are unreasonable. The bank of cloud off California is there, together a gap between it and the cloud in tropics. There is definitely a clear gap in the clouds in the Equatorial Pacific, before much denser systems off southern America.
Returning now to magazine 134, from image AS17-
Figure 4.9.59b: Google moon view showing a line drawn from the LM site and the centre of the South Massif -
Close examination of the reversed visor image shows Earth to be above the South Massif slightly to the right of centre, or in other words nearer the west than the south. This is borne out by the slightly later image at the end of the EVA, and Stellarium confirms that this is exactly where Earth would be, right down to the angle of the terminator line. It’s worth noting that Jack Schmitt was also photographed in roughly the same position, and the same view of Earth can be seen in his visor, as shown in figure 4.9.59c.
Figure 4.9.59c: AS17-
While I managed to work this out the view of Earth for myself, it is worth noting that there is nothing new under the sun, and it is already discussed on the ALSJ in the image library there.
Even a reflection in a visor contains evidence that Apollo 17 astronauts were on the moon.
It’s worth noting here that Stellarium does have an Apollo 17 landscape, but it is incorrectly oriented and shows the centre of the South Massif to be south, rather than south-
Only one image remains from the surface, and it was not taken by anyone on the surface. While Cernan and Schmitt were in the LM awaiting the time to lift off and rejoin the CSM for the journey home, the LRV camera, positioned a safe distance away, remotely scanned the horizon and, eventually, the distant Earth. A screenshot of that video, which can be found at the ALSJ is analysed in figure 4.9.60.
Figure 4.9.54: Still from ‘Apollo 17: On the shoulders of Giants’, with zoom of the Earth to the right.
The quality of the image and the distribution of the clouds suggests it may be a still from the TV broadcast rather than the Apollo image. I’m sure some nutjob out there will seize on something like this, but all it is is artistic licence and as we’ve demonstrated above the meteorological data identify it as being an image taken by Apollo 17 on the moon and nowhere else.
A short while after this video was broadcast, there is another video segment from the EVA TV broadcast showing an image of Earth. This time, the crew are at Station 4, and are busy sampling the famous 'Orange soil' that was initially suspected to be some form of oxidation. The mission audio puts the time of the footage at 143:12, or 04:50 GMT, 13/12/72.
There is a version of the video available at the ALSJ , and various versions if variable quality on Youtube, eg here. A screenshot of the scene in question is in figure 4.9.55, together with a comparison with satellite images. The levels have been adjusted considerably in the screenshot to reveal detail, as it is not zoomed in as closely as the previous video of Earth. What is visible is blurred, but as with other images of this type broad patterns can be determined.
Returning to the visible spectrum, something else that should be visible in the image is Tropical Storm Violet. Violet developed over the Marshall Islands, a small group of islands just north of the equator and just west of the 180 degree longitude line.
The storm began as Therese died away, but was most active between the 12th and 15th of the month. On the 13th, the MWL (reference given in the introduction to this section) shows a more detailed NOAA image of Violet, with lines of longitude and latitude clearly marked, and this is shown below in figure 4.9.52.
Figure 4.9.51b: ESMR image from NIMBUS-
This particular image contains one orbital pass from December 13th, and we can combine that with the other passes from the 13th to produce an image covering the Pacific (see figure 4.9.51c).
The arrows used in this image are the same as those in 4.9.51a. It’s worth pointing out that the image is measuring microwave radiation and as a result is inferring the water content of clouds. The path covering eastern Australia and New Zealand was made on orbit 30. It’s difficult to tell when this orbit commenced as data are not given in the accompanying catalog, but the image itself records times around 12:30 GMT, which would be consistent with night-
While my use of arrows should be treated with caution, it’s clear that there are areas that tie in with that shown on the ESSA image and consequently the Apollo photograph.
Figure 4.9.51c: NIMBUS-
An interesting diversion from this comes from a photograph taken a couple of frames later, AS17-
Figure 4.9.59a shows the two photographs in comparison and a zoomed, cropped, enhanced and reversed shot of the visor. Figure 4.9.59b shows Stellarium’s projection of where Earth would be in the sky, with the important feature being the compass direction, with a Google Moon illustration of the direction from the LM to the centre point of the South Massif.
Figure 4.9.58b: ESMR NIMBUS-
Figure 4.9.44: AS17-
Figure 4.9.47a: AS17-
Figure 4.9.49: AS17-
Figure 4.9.51a: AS17-
Figure 4.9.52: Tropical storm violet from the Mariner's Weather Log. Source given in text.
Figure 4.9.53a: Video screenshot from EVA-
Figure 4.9.55: Screenshot from EVA TV broadcast at Station 4, with zoomed and cropped Earth, visible spectrum NOAA satellite image and Stellarium estimate of terminator. Sources given in text. Left is a 3D reconstruction using digitally restored NOAA data.
Figure 4.9.56: LRV view of Earth at station 6 compared with visible spectrum satellite image form 13/12/72 and Fourmilab view of Earth at 00:15 on 14/12/72. Left is a 3D reconstruction using digitally restored NOAA data.
Figure 4.9.58a: AS17-
Figure 4.9.60: Screenshot of Apollo 17 LRV footage (top right) zoomed and cropped (main image) compared with NOAA 2 IR (left) and visible spectrum (right) mosaics and Stellarium estimate of terminator at time of broadcast. Left is a 3D reconstruction using digitally restored NOAA data.
Despite there being a good 12 hours between the two images, the curl of cloud off south America and the band of cloud further north can be made out easily in the Microwave Scanner view.
There now follows quite a hiatus in terms of Earth photography for this mission. The crew's next objectives are to transfer to the LM, separate, descend and land. The next image of Earth, at least in a time-
The first image showing Earth on this magazine is after flag deployment, which gives us a start marker for the event, and is part of a short series of pictures showing astronauts in close up with the flag. Two of those images feature the flag, and the 2nd one of these, AS17-
Figure 4.9.47b: Fourmilab illustration of the daylight portionof Earth at 00:30 on 11/12/72 compared with EMSR data from the same date.
The terminator therefore, just clips the west coast of the USA, something not easily visible in the satellite image, but shows much more of the south Pacific and the tip of South America, which the satellite image does show. Let’s zoom in on the Apollo image over the same area (figure 4.9.47c)
Figure 4.9.47c: Nimbus 5 ESMR data compared with AS17-
While the broadcast was made in the early hours of GMT on the 13th, in New York it was late evening, plenty of time for it to make onto the next day’s front page.
As an interesting aside, the images from this point in the EVA make an anachronistic appearance in a scene from a NASA film ‘On the shoulders of giants’ about the mission. At the end of the film they showed a few still images, and one of them is from EVA 3 at Station 6, AS17-
Figure 4.9.53b: New York Daily News image, published Wednesday December 13th 1972, together with a still from the TV broadast itself.