The moon like you’ve never seen it before
In a spectacular video montage the NASA scientific visualization studio shows you a view from about a hundred kilometers above the moon – at the far side, the side which is always turned away from us that is.
And so you see behind the moon, with the earth turning figure eights in the background.
You see that the far side of the moon also has moon phases (the familiar 29.5-day period, from the crescent moon to a full moon).
In the distance you will see the sun flashing by. A cosmic roller coaster, and a stunning look that no one ever saw.
The video is composed of altitude photos from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a satellite orbiting around the moon since 2009. That the earth seems to be running figure eights in the background is because the moon wobbles a bit.
Seen from a fixed point above the lunar surface it therefore seems as if the earth is moving back and forth, like the horizon seems to go up and down if you stand on a fixed point on a ship.
The far side of the moon is remarkably different. It has no dark spots (‘maria’, or seas) and therefore looks quite pale and flat. Only at the bottom it’s a little darker. That’s because of the so-called ‘South Pole-Aitken basin‘, a gigantic prehistoric crater, one of the largest and oldest of the solar system.
We always only see one side of the moon, which incidentally is not because the moon does not turn – on the contrary. In terminology, the celestial body has a “bound rotation, which means that the moon turns as fast around the earth as around its own axis. Thats why we always only see the front, as if someone is walking around you who always keeps his face turned towards you.
The above video is public domain and can be downloaded at: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?4253
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)
Moon Phase and Libration, from the Other Side
Moon Phase and Libration, 2015
Lunar Far Side: From Luna 3 to LRO
Far Side of The Moon (Interactive)
More moon info
How the Moon was formed (Video’s)
For more information about LRO
Access the complete collection of LROC images
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera
Exploring the Moon – A Teachers Guide with Activities for Earth and Space Sciences
The Full Moon Atlas (interactive)
Observing the Moon