Last month our attention-hounding moon photobombed SDO's pictures of the sun, and now it's gotten in the way of yet another robot spacecraft's view: NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, aka LADEE, which was just trying to take some nice pictures of the stars. What gives, moon?
ANALYSIS: Watch the Sun Get Photobombed by the Moon
Actually these are images of the Moon intentionally captured by LADEE's star tracker cameras on Feb. 8, 2014, at 23:45 UTC (6:45 p.m. ET). The star tracker instrument is a wide-angle camera that's used by the spacecraft to determine its orientation in space based on the known positions of background stars. Star trackers aren't specifically designed for taking pretty pictures of things like planets and moons "but they can sometimes provide exciting glimpses of the lunar terrain," according to LADEE project manager Butler Hine.
The five images of the moon captured on Feb. 8 are the first ones to be downlinked by the LADEE team.
Taken at one-minute intervals while the spacecraft was traveling along its 156-mile-high equatorial orbit at a velocity of about 60 miles/minute (3,600 mph), the images show various craters, mountain ranges, and lava plains on the lunar surface.