India's first lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 captured the shadow of the moon on the earth's surface during the July 22 total solar eclipse, an Indian space agency official said on Tuesday.
The images were captured by the terrain mapping camera (TMC) on board the 514-kg spacecraft, which is orbiting at 200 km above the lunar surface.
"Chandrayaan tracked the movement of moon's shadow on the earth during the total solar eclipse. The high resolution images of the TMC from 07:45 IST show the lunar shadow spreading its footprint from north-eastern China to northern parts of Australia," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) director S Satish told IANS in Bangalore.
The dark shadow of the umbra region can be vividly seen in the series of images the space agency released a week after the celestial event. The spacecraft digitally transmitted the pictures to the space agency's Deep Space Network (DSN) at Baylalu, about 40 km from this tech hub.
Solar eclipse is caused when the moon covers the sun partially or completely to cast a shadow on the earth.
"The digital images were processed and scanned at our Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad and the telemetry, tracking and command network (Istrac) in Bangalore. The capturing of the solar eclipse confirms the spacecraft is orbiting the moon even at 200 km with all its payloads satisfactorily," Satish said.
The indigenously built seven-kg TMC is a hi-tech camera that maps the moon's topography and prepares a three-dimensional atlas with high spatial and altitude resolution. It also helps in better understanding of the lunar evolution process.
The nine-month-old mooncraft suffered a setback in April-May when its star sensor malfunctioned and lost orientation due to excessive radiation of the sun when it was orbiting at 100 km above the lunar surface.
ISRO scientists overcame the disorientation by using antenna-pointing mechanism and gyroscope on board the spacecraft.
"We overcame the failure of the star sensor and brought the mooncraft back into normal operation using gyroscopes, which are electro-mechanical devices used for remote sensing satellites to determine orientation accurately," ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair told reporters in Bangalore on July 17.
Chandrayaan was launched amid fanfare on Oct 22, 2008, from India's only spaceport Sriharikota, about 90 km north-east of Chennai, onboard the 316-tonne polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV-C11) and inserted into the lunar orbit on November 8. A week later, on November 16, its moon impact probe (MIP) was crashed into the lunar surface.
The 11 scientific payloads onboard the mooncraft continue to send high quality data as per planned sequence to its ground station (DSN).
The mooncraft has orbited around the moon 3,000 times over the last eight months and its high-resolution cameras relayed about 70,000 digital images of the lunar surface, providing breathtaking views of mountains and craters, including those in the permanently shadowed area of the moon's polar region.
Of the 11 scientific instruments (payloads), five are Indian. Of the other six, three are from the European Space Agency (ESA), two from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US and one from Bulgaria.
The total solar eclipse, that lasted over six minutes and 39 seconds, is said to be the longest in the 21st century.