“Swear not by the moon, the fickle moon …”

by Michael Mullaney on June 11, 2009

Here is a quick quiz for our keen-eyed, celestial-minded readers:

Which of the above images of a lunar eclipse is an actual photo taken with a digital camera, and which is computer simulation rendered from scratch by Rensselaer researchers?

Answer is after the fold …

If you guessed that the image on the right is the photograph, then you’re correct. But as the images are nearly identical and probably indistinguishable to the untrained eye, it must have been a lucky guess.

And that’s exactly the point. Computer graphics experts and computer scientists strive to create visualizations and simulations that are so close to reality, the human mind can’t tell the difference. It’s a technique most of us are exposed to on any given day via television and film. In the realm of science and research, these types of simulations can be used to test data, proof models, or create renderings.

In this case, the lunar eclipse simulations created by professor Barbara Cutler and doctoral student Ted Yapo are affording researchers a novel chance to look back in time at historical eclipses, and even peek forward in time at future eclipses. Reach more about it at the project page and in our recent news story.

Also, be sure to follow this link and watch a cool video of the simulations in action: Lunar Eclipse Modeling