U.S. space agency NASA has released a stunning footage of the “dark side” of the moon as it moved in front of the sun-lit side of Earth. Such images would be impossible to capture from Earth. NASA has turned a series of images into an animation to show the fully illuminated side of the moon. The images were captured by the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) between 3:50 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Eastern Time on July 16 from a distance of one million miles.
Why is the far side of the moon not visible to us?
The far side of the moon doesn’t have the large and dark basaltic plains that can be seen on the Earth-facing side. The lunar orbit period is the same as the moon’s rotation around the axis. It means an Earth-bound observer always faces the same side of the moon, making it impossible to see its far side. In this animation, the moon can be seen moving over the Pacific Ocean.
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Adam Szabo of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said it was surprising how much brighter the Earth is compared to the lunar surface. The images were obtained from DSCOVR’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC). These images of the moon’s far side were just test photos. DSCOVR will begin regular observations next month.
NASA’s DSCOVR to send back more such images
The primary purpose of DSCOVR is to monitor solar storms and serve as an early warning system when the harmful solar activity is heading towards the Earth. But its EPIC camera will also constantly monitor the Earth to provide scientific observations of vegetation, ozone, aerosols, and cloud height. Twice a year, it will take images of the moon and Earth together as the probe’s orbit crosses the orbital plane of the moon.
The far side of the moon was first seen in 1950 when the Soviet Union’s Luna 3 spacecraft returned the first photos. Since then, NASA has imaged the “dark side” of the moon several times in great detail.