Just as the lunar new year dawns, NASA probes have brought us video of the mythical far side of the moon, a sight never seen from Earth.
The pockmarked orb is seen via a new item called a MoonKAM that is helping Earthbound students take photos as part of an educational project, according to NASA. The two GRAIL probes (GRAIL sands for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, according to NASA, and consists of two identical spacecraft dubbed Ebb and Flow and equipped with cameras) were launched in September 2011 and arrived within shooting distance of the moon around New Year’s. This video was shot on January 19, NASA said in a statement.
The moon is subject to a phenomenon called “tidal lock,” spinning at a rate that keeps just one side turned toward Earth at all times. Although photographs of what is known as the so-called dark side of the moon have been taken, this is the first-ever video. As the detailed analysis shows, the shot taken from the north to south poles notes the sight, with the north pole visible at the top of the screen as the probe flies toward the south pole, NASA’s statement said. On the lower third of the moon can be seen the Mare Orientale, a 560-mile-wide impact basin that straddles the border between seen and unseen.
At the end of the clip we see the rugged terrain near the south pole, with the 93-mile-wide Drygalski crater distinguished by the star-shaped formation in its center.
“The formation is a central peak, created many billions of years ago by a comet or asteroid impact,” NASA said. But enough chitchat. Read NASA’s full description while you run and re-run this ghostly cosmic image.