On December 24th 1968 the crew of Apollo 8 were orbiting around the Moon for the fourth time when they saw the sunlit Earth coming up above the lunar horizon. In these fleeting moments the astronaut William Anders took one of the most iconic images ever captured by our species.


Credit: Bill Anders NASA

Today we've all seen this unique picture. But of course nature recreates this moment for real again and again, if you're in the right place at the right time. The Japanese space agency's SELENE (Kaguya) mission had that privilege. The spacecraft operated in lunar orbit from 2007 to 2009, and in addition to a payload of scientific instrumentation it also carried a pair of HDTV cameras - a piece of inspired PR.

A couple of months ago the agency (JAXA) released the final archive of the still and videos from the mission - more than 450 files capturing the austere beauty of the Moon, and its primary world - Earth.

In the spirit of the solstice, western holiday traditions, and an homage to Apollo 8, here are a few of these remarkable high-definition shots:

Earthrise redux. Credit: JAXA, NHK
Credit: JAXA, NHK
A thin crescent Earth. Credit: JAXA, NHK
Credit: JAXA, NHK
Cheating a little, Earth from 11,000 km. Credit: JAXA, NHK

And finally, click here for a HD video flyover of the lunar surface.