NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
Far UV Camera/SpectrographIn March 1610, Galileo Galilei reported the first use of a telescope to view mountains and maria on
the Moon. On April 21, 1972, the Apollo 16 commander pointed a somewhat more complex optical instrument at the Earth from the Moon and obtained several remarkable photographs showing atmospheric rather than surface features. The optical part of the far UV camera (aperture, 7.5 cm) was not much larger than Galileo's telescope. Like his, this instrument was also pointed at other celestial objects that Galileo viewed, including the Milky Way and Jupiter, and the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), which is not visible from Italy. More important, the far UV camera/spectrograph recorded light in the invisible band of wavelengths between 50 and 160 nm, approximately one-third the wavelength that can penetrate the atmosphere of the Earth to ground-based telescopes.

As described in more detail in this section, these UV observations from the Moon allow study of the entire atmosphere of the Earth and the geocorona. The photographs show hydrogen and other gases in the solar wind and interplanetary media, and they provide new data on stars, nebulae, and galaxies much farther away. When used as a spectrograph, the instrument distributes the light it receives according to wavelength, and the resulting spectrum shows bright lines or gaps known to be characteristic of various gases, such as hydrogen (H), helium (He), oxygen (O), nitrogen (N), and neon (Ne). If a gas cloud is hot, the atoms are excited and the spectrum shows bright emission lines; if it is cool, the atoms absorb light, leaving gaps or absorption lines.

The far UV camera is blind to ordinary visible light; for that reason, the photographs show very few of the stars mapped by ground-based telescopes. Only the very-high-temperature (blue) stars of spectral classes O, B, and possibly A (temperatures from 50000 ° down to 10000°K) are expected to be recorded. Image blackness or density on the negatives also depends on the brightness of the star, which astronomers measure in an inverted logarithmic scale of magnitudes. A star of 6 magnitudes (mag.) can barely be seen with the unaided eye. An 11-mag. star is 100 times fainter, and a 12-mag. star is 2.5 times fainter yet. The faintest star recorded by the far UV camera is at least 11 mag., which is called the limiting magnitude.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Document Type
Contribution to a larger work
George R. Carruthers
(Naval Research Laboratory Washington, United States)
Thornton Page
(Naval Research Laboratory Washington, DC, United States)
Date Acquired
August 7, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1972
Publication Information
Publication: Apollo 16 Preliminary Science Report
Publisher: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Volume: NASA-SP-315
Issue Publication Date: January 1, 1972
Subject Category
Instrumentation And Photography
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
Document Inquiry

Available Downloads

There are no available downloads for this record.
No Preview Available