Everyones heard of sunshine and moonshine (and not the stuff that comes in glass jars). But the Earth shines too. Sunlight bounces off our planet, hits the moon and bounces back, visible as the silvery light seen here reflecting off Earths natural satellite above the European Southern Obervatorys (ESO) Paranal Observatory in Chile.
New research published Feb. 29 in the journal Nature suggests that this Earthshine may be useful for more than beauty, however. Researchers led by Michael Sterzik of the ESO found that you can measure the polarization of Earthshine to reveal our planets cloud cover, ocean surface and even vegetation cover. Using Earth as a test case, researchers could develop methods to study light signals bouncing off far off exoplanets to determine their landscapes, the researchers reported.