A Chinese mini-satellite recently helped a group of radio amateurs capture some spectacular views of Earth and the moon, reports New Scientist.
The spacecraft has been orbiting the moon for just a few months and is equipped with a student-developed CMOS camera that can be operated from Earth via radio commands.
Dubbed Longjiang-2, the tiny satellite is also known as DSLWP-B — short for Discovering the Sky at Longest Wavelengths Pathfinder, notes the blog of radio amateur Mike Rupprecht — and was developed by the Harbin Institute of Technology in the Chinese province of Heilongjiang.
Originally part of a satellite pair, Longjiang-2 is designed to allow amateurs to upload radio commands and download photos.
As our planet lined up with the moon earlier this month, radio amateurs leaped at the opportunity to snap some amazing shots from the satellite’s perch in lunar orbit.
According to GB Times, the team linked up with the tiny satellite on October 7 and commanded it to take several photos of Earth and the moon, which they successfully downloaded to the Dwingeloo radio observatory in the Netherlands.
“It felt awesome, we were cheering in the telescope,” said team member Tammo Jan Dijkema, one of the Dwingeloo operators.
“We could see the image building up line by line and it was not certain that Earth would be in view, or that the exposure would be correct. When we saw a blue marble popping up we were very happy.”
One of the first images was posted on social media by astronomer Cees Bassa, who was part of the team that operated the satellite’s camera and downloaded the snapshots.
“I hope you smiled, as you’re in this image!” Bassa tweeted on October 8.
I hope you smiled, as you're in this image! The #DSLWP-B lunar orbiter took this picture of the Moon and Earth earlier this morning. Commands were created by @bg2bhc, uplinked by Reinhard DK5LA, and downlinked with @radiotelescoop by @tammojan and myself. ???????? pic.twitter.com/dNVNeXpKuG— Cees Bassa (@cgbassa) October 8, 2018
Captured over a four-day interval, the photos were posted on the blog of radio amateur Daniel Estévez, who was also part of the team.
“During the first week of October there was a new moon, which implied that it was possible to take images of the moon and the Earth,” Estévez explained in his blog post.
The images are also available on the Harbin Institute’s LilacSat archive together with a previous batch of Longjiang-2 images downloaded over the summer.
The most stunning of the recently taken photos is an image of Earth and the moon snapped on October 9 and which captures the far side of the moon, with our planet looming in the distance.
Our precious Earth and the lunar farside as seen with the #DSLWP-B lunar orbiter! This is the full color adjusted image received by radio amateurs, including @radiotelescoop (operated by @tammojan and myself). Commands were created by @bg2bhc and uplinked by Reinhard DK5LA. pic.twitter.com/aMs9WTysqe— Cees Bassa (@cgbassa) October 10, 2018
The team continued their observations with the Longjiang-2 satellite on October 14 and downloaded another pair of fresh photos taken from lunar orbit.
During today's @radiotelescoop observing session of the @bg2bhc #DSLWP-B lunar orbiter we (@tammojan and I) downloaded two new images. Showing the lunar far side, as well as Earth. These images have been slightly colour corrected. Originals at https://t.co/mlI1IEy1d3. pic.twitter.com/efWNqjyjhx— Cees Bassa (@cgbassa) October 14, 2018
Longjiang-1 And Longjiang-2
The Longjiang-2 mini-sat went up in space less than five months ago as part of a two-satellite operation tasked with conducting radio-astronomy research.
Launched on May 20 together with China’s Queqiao satellite — a relay satellite for the historic Chang’e 4 mission to the lunar far side, the Inquisitr previously reported — the tiny spacecraft was initially accompanied by its twin, Longjiang-1.
While Longjiang-1 never made it to its destination, Longjiang-2 managed to enter an elliptical lunar orbit in June and has been studying the sky ever since.
On June 14, the satellite beamed back amazing photos of Earth and the lunar surface, showcasing Mare Imbrium — one of the largest craters in the solar system, the Inquisitr reported at the time.
Other beautiful snapshots taken by Longjiang-2 are available in the tweet below.
Images from DSLWP-B student camera developed by @duke_SORA: Mars & Capricornus on 4 Aug, and Mare Nubium on 30 Jun. UHF received from @radiotelescoop @cgbassa @tammojan , Beijing, @I0LYL and Harbin BY2HIT @LittleQ_Huang . Thanks to @fsphil for ssdv and much help from @ea4gpz pic.twitter.com/z44OptGXTp— BG2BHC (@bg2bhc) August 5, 2018
Taken on June 30 and August 4, these previous images capture impressive views of Mare Nubium — a dark, volcanic plain on the surface of the moon — as well as of Mars and the Capricornus constellation.