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A rainbow on the moon?


With the sun directly overhead, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's wide angle camera seems to capture a rainbow effect (Courtesy: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University).
With the sun directly overhead, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's wide angle camera seems to capture a rainbow effect (Courtesy: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University).

Staff writers

November 3, 2012 — A trick of the camera makes for a colourful display over the usually drab lunar surface.

The same scene, with the sun at lower angle, looks more like what you'd expect (Courtesy: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University).
The same scene, with the sun at lower angle, looks more like what you'd expect (Courtesy: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University).

There's no rain on the moon, but it seems you can still catch a glimpse of a rainbow -- if the sun hits just right, and you have the right kind of camera.

This image, released by NASA and Arizona State University, was beamed back to Earth by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. 

It was taken with the orbiter's wide angle camera while the sun was directly overhead of the patch of moon surface being photographed.

As neat as it looks, scientists say you wouldn't actually see a rainbow with the naked eye if you were orbiting over the same spot at the same angle.

That's just how it appears when the reflected light hits the orbiter's red, blue and green filters.

If the sun was at a lower angle, the rainbow image would not appear.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched in 2009. Circling the moon at an altitude of 50 km, 
it's been studying the surface with a variety of sophisticated instruments.

Part of its mission includes searching for water ice on the moon.

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