A video released by NASA finally shows us what the other side of the moon looks like.
The other side of the moon is sometimes called the dark side of the moon, but that is in fact a misnomer. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has now revealed that the other side of the moon is not always dark. The LRO has also collected data which has allowed scientists to understand more about the differences between the two sides, writes Ben Kochman of Times Gazette.
High quality photos
“Just like the near side, the far side goes through a complete cycle of phases,” NASA says. “But the terrain of the far side is quite different. It lacks the large dark spots, called maria, that make up the familiar Man in the Moon on the near side.”
The LRO has been taking photos since its launch in 2009, and they have now been collated in a video released by NASA. The images are a vast improvement on the only previous images of the other side of the moon, which were taken by a Soviet probe named Luna 3 back in 1959.
From Earth we only ever see one side of the moon because tidal forces mean that it maintains a fixed position relative to our home planet. The LRO uses a laser altimeter, in conjunction with its cameras, to capture highly detailed images of the lunar surface.
Preparing for future missions?
As well as its lack of lunar seas, or marias, the surface of the other side of the moon is covered in craters. The LRO has discovered that the lunar surface is pocked with both large and small craters, as well as the South Pole-Aitken basin, which NASA claims is “one of the largest and oldest impact features in the solar system.”
The launch of the LRO in 2009 was the first time that NASA had launched a lunar mission in over a decade, and commentators believe that it could usher in a new age of lunar exploration, including manned missions. The LRO is tasked with identifying suitable landing spots for future missions, and looking for resources on the surface of the moon.