What would today’s solar eclipse look like from the Moon? + Foolish people in the Sailor Moon anime don’t know how to look at an eclipse!

Sailor Moon SuperS episode 128 - Usagi watching the solar eclipse

This afternoon, August 21st 2017, there will be a solar eclipse, meaning that from the vantage point of the Earth the Moon will pass in front of the Sun. While there is usually one or more at least partial solar eclipse in a given year, this one is notable for being visible in North America with many parts of the US being able to observe the total eclipse. Here in Gatineau, Quebec I will be observing only a partial solar eclipse. How about you? Sailor Moon is no stranger to solar eclipses! The Dead Moon Circus first appears during a total solar eclipse which is visible from Tokyo. Unfortunately for fans in Japan, it will be night time during the eclipse and they will be unable to observe it as the Earth will be in the way.

Princess Serenity views a solar eclipse from the Moon

This got me to wonder about what someone on the Moon might see during a solar eclipse. I previously toyed with a similar idea when I wondered what a lunar eclipse would look like from the Moon. Since Princess Serenity lived on the Moon from birth to adolescence and always had a view of the Earth in the sky she likely observed quite a few lunar and solar eclipses during her life. Due to the nature of a solar eclipse it would always appear during a “full Earth” from the vantage point of the Moon and the shadow would always be visible from that side. In this case, as the digitally altered photo above illustrates, the observer on the Moon would see a small shadow on the Earth as only a part of it is obscured at any time. With most of the shadow still being partly illuminated by the sun which is only partially blocked by the Moon, there wouldn’t be a clear demarcation but rather a gradually darkening spot. To create the photo above I used an actual image of a solar eclipse seen from space which I got from NASA. Since this photo wasn’t of today’s eclipse, because time travel doesn’t exist yet, the image has the shadow on Australia even though the eclipse will not be visible from Australia this time around. Instead the shadow of this year’s eclipse will be seen on the United States, where the total eclipse will be visible.

Pat Rawlings' painting of the solar eclipse seen from the Moon

Artist Pat Rawlings imagined what the the August 2017 eclipse would look like if seen from the Moon back in 1989. (Print available here) It was his hope at the time that by now someone would be on the Moon to observe it, but sadly this is not the case.

Sailor Moon SuperS episode 128 - A bunch of people looking at the sun

Looking back at Sailor Moon SuperS episode 128 I noticed a few humorous things. While many of the main characters are wearing the appropriate protective eye wear to view the eclipse, this is not true of all people. Usagi and others have a protective sheet to look through while some people have glasses. Indeed there are many such glasses, many made out of cardboard and a special film which blocks most of the sun’s rays, which are adequate for viewing an eclipse. As a tip if you can see pretty much anything with your shades, they aren’t fit for viewing the sun! This said there are quite a few people in this episode who appear to have no concern with staring at the sun. This is at once a bad idea and simply difficult to do. Staring at the sun during a partial eclipse is pretty much like staring at the sun during any normal time. It hurts your eyes and your instinct would be to turn away. With many of the business men and women in Sailor Moon seen simply putting their hand on near their forehead I wonder what exactly they’re looking at. This is a move that is usually done to protect one’s eyes from the sun, but the thing that they are conceivably looking at is the sun itself so something just isn’t adding up.

Sailor Moon SuperS episode 128 - Business people looking at the sun

Luna and Artemis, usually the voices of reason in the series, appear to have no eclipse protection. Surely it would have been suspicious for a couple of cats to be wearing glasses but in this case they are simply staring at the fully eclipsed sun with no protection whatsoever. Shouldn’t they be going blind? Not really. It’s actually safe to look at the fully eclipsed sun however for most people this isn’t advisable as it isn’t terribly easy to tell when the sun is fully eclipsed and safe vs. when it’s only partially eclipsed and potentially damaging to one’s eyes.

Sailor Moon SuperS episode 128 - Luna and Artemis lack eye protection

A reminder that I do a weekly science and skepticism podcast called The Reality Check. In the latest episode Cristina talks all about eclipse myths including the real and fictional risks of looking at the sun. I managed to slip a reference to the Dead Moon Circus into the show!

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 38 - Viewing the eclipse

Are you watching the eclipse today? Be sure to check out the NASA web site for all the details about it.

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Could we see the remains of Silver Millennium with a telescope from Earth?

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 9 - Silver Millennium

A question came up recently in the comments to a post on the site about Act 10 of Sailor Moon Crystal, where the gang travel to Moon to see the remnants of Silver Millennium, the Kingdom which existed on the Moon in the ancient past. If such a place existed, wouldn’t people be able to see it? Wouldn’t NASA or the Russian Space Agency have seen it? When not running a Sailor Moon site I do a science and skepticism podcast, The Reality Check, and this seemed like a perfect topic to cover on that show. If you’re interested in giving that a listen, check out episode 385 of The Reality Check. The final segment of this week’s show covers the topic of whether or not we could see the remains of the Apollo missions on the Moon, from the Earth, using a telescope. The show title doesn’t mention it but I also used this opportunity to explore the plausibility of seeing the remains of Silver Millennium through a telescope, using similar logic.

For those who aren’t into listening to a full podcast to get the low down, I’ll sum up my findings below. So much to say there isn’t a clear answer, and we might be able to see it depending on its size, but it is something which could be easily missed.

The comment was made by reader Neon Genesis on this post about the English dub of Act 10, Moon.

While I love this episode, it still doesn’t make much sense to me why no one on Earth never noticed there was these huge ruins of a palace on the moon. You’d think NASA or the Russian space agency would have picked up on this or something. Is there some magic force field protecting it from being detected? But neither the manga nor Crystal ever seems to explain this at all and you’re just left to assume NASA just never found it for some reason. This made a little more sense in the 90s anime where they traveled back in time to get to the Moon Kingdom ruins.

This reminded me of claims I’d heard that you couldn’t see the remains of the Apollo mission on the Moon through a telescope. This was a frequent idea brought up by conspiracy theorists who believe man did not land on the Moon. If we went up there, shouldn’t we be able to look at the flag we left there through a telescope? Or see the rovers and other debris left behind by the missions? The largest thing left of the moon is the base of a Lunar lander which is 4 meters wide and with legs spreading out to be about 9 meters. Apollo missions 15, 16 and 16 left rovers which were about 2x3m in size.

The Moon landing in 1969

What size would something have to be, on the Moon, in order for us to see it with a powerful telescope? Luckily Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, has already crunched the numbers for this using as an example the Hubble Telescope. There’s a bunch of math involved, which I get into on the show, and can also be found at the Bad Astronomy blog, but so much to say the further away an item is, the harder it is to see, obviously. The larger the lens of your telescope, the better your power at resolving things is. To see something on the Moon with the Hubble Telescope, which has a 2.4 meter mirror, something that is about 100 meters across would basically resolve to a single point. Practically speaking something would need to be about 200 meters in order to be seen on its own.

This works both ways. Think of Rita Repulsa sitting on the Moon looking down through her telescope at what the Power Rangers are doing and making out small details. This is totally unrealistic as her tiny telescope is considerably smaller than the Hubble Space Telescope and she is making out objects much smaller than 100m. An average Power Ranger is probably about 2m tall and much smaller when seen from above while standing.

All said we can use shadows to see more detail. As the sun sets on the Moon it will leave a long shadow of the object in question. This means even a smaller object could leave a shadow large enough to see, if the conditions are right.

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 10 - The Sailor Guardians in Silver Millennium

So much to say, we can’t see anything left from the Apollo missions on the Moon through the Hubble Telescope. There is something else we could use however! The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) flew just 31 miles above the Moon’s surface. This is much lower than a satellite would have been able to fly over the Earth’s surface due to atmospheric drag, but the atmosphere on the Moon is nearly non existent so this isn’t a concern at such a height. This took great photos, the kind more comparable to what we’d see on Google Maps, so we were actually able to make out what was left by the Apollo missions with these photos, as can be seen at the following link.

Back to the original question. Can we see the ruins of Silver Millennium? That depends. We don’t actually have specifics of the size. If this were a full city thriving we could probably make something out, but it appears to be somewhat small in size and sort of ruined. People like to measure things in football fields. One football field is 100m, which is too small to resolve, but a number of football fields is something we could just barely make out, if we knew what we were looking for.

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 10 - Silver Millennium in ruin

Silver Millennium is composed of a large castle surrounded by some buildings, as seen from the above photo. We don’t have a specific sense of scale but we can use the largest castles and palaces on Earth to infer how big it would be if it were quite large. Prague Castle on Earth is 130x570m. This wouldn’t show up as much of anything on a telescope. The Palace of Parliament is some 270x240m, which also could just be a few dots in a telescope. Let’s assume Silver Millennium is at most about twice that, based on what we see in Act 10, and we might be it at about 500x500m. A square kilometre would be big, and that is considerably smaller than an average city on Earth. Its actually quite possible to fit a castle and surrounding buildings in a space smaller than a football field, so there’s still a possibility it would not resolve at all.

Adding to this the kingdom is in decay. Back in the day Silver Millennium was full of lakes and green vegetation but now it is grey and looks like stone. We don’t know exactly how old it is but even over a few thousand years it should be decently well preserved on a planet devoid of life. We see evidence of impacts on the surface of the Moon but there are a lot more on the far side. The reason we see more on the Moon than on Earth is because there is no life and geological activity to mask those signs like there are here on Earth. That said, it is stated quite clearly in the Sailor Moon manga and Sailor Moon Crystal that Silver Millennium was turned to stone after being destroyed. Because of that, it would be hard to make out much of anything, in an image that is barely above what resolves, if we were even knowing what to look for.

You probably couldn’t see the remains of Silver Millennium on the Moon with a telescope, given its small size and how similar its grey rock colour would look to the Moon’s surface. This may change slightly when the Castle is rebuilt after the Dark Kingdom is destroyed, but it would still be hard to see even for someone who knew exactly where to look for it, which in this case is somewhere in the 674 km wide Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity). Looking for its shadow at just the right time would probably produce something visible, given precise timing and looking at the right place. All said it is quite plausible, in a realistic context of the show, that the ruins of Silver Millennium were never found by any amateur astronomers or space agencies.

Sailor Pluto’s heart shaped Garnet Orb can be seen on new photos of Pluto

The heart on Pluto is Sailor Pluto's Garnet Orb

This morning NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft was a mere 12,500 km from Pluto. While approaching it took the above photo, the highest quality photo taken at the time, which reveals a large heart shape on the dwarf planet’s surface. No doubt this is Sailor Pluto’s heart shaped Garnet Orb which lies on top of her Garnet Rod. This Garnet Orb is one of the three Talismans, the other two being Sailor Uranus’s Space Sword and Sailor Neptune’s Deep Aqua Mirror.

Pluto has a heart on it

Sailor Pluto’s status as a Sailor Guardian has come into question since her planet was downgraded back in 2006. Despite more recent rumours to the contrary Pluto is still very much not a planet. That said the appearance of her Talisman across the surface of her dwarf planet’s surface is a big deal. Until now the only celestial body with something on it’s surface represented by the character was the rabbit on the Moon from which Usagi, who’s name is the Japanese word for rabbit, gets her name.

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 19 - Sailor Pluto

One might also argue that Sailor Jupiter’s Flower Hurricane takes some inspiration from the Great Red Dot of Jupiter which is technically a anticyclonic storm. Storms are only called Hurricanes if they occur around North America. Those centered near Japan are actually called Typhoons, which makes one wonder why Sailor Jupiter’s attack would be named after something which can no occur where she lives.

Sailor Moon - Petite Étrangère - Sailor Pluto

Now we must ask ourselves how Naoko Takeuchi managed to know back in the 90s that Pluto had a heart on it’s surface even though we didn’t get these pictures until today. Time travel seems to be the most logical explanation though we must remain open minded to alternative theories until an official statement is made.

Sailor Moon R episode 75 - Sailor Pluto

Source: NASA