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This Is What The Far Side Of The Moon Actually Looks Like

Spoiler alert: It's not always dark.

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Ever wondered what the far side of the moon looks like?

NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio / svs.gsfc.nasa.gov

NASA have made a helpful animation to answer that exact question.

From this vantage point, the virtual camera is fixed on the Earth-moon line, showing a telescopic view of the moon with Earth spinning behind it. From Earth, this moon would look like a waxing crescent. But from the other side, it's almost full.

And as you can see, what some people think of as the "dark" side of the moon is not always dark. There is, of course, an actual dark side of the moon – but it's the part that's facing away from the sun, not the part facing away from us.

Here's what it looks like with the camera fixed on the moon's surface.

NASA's Scientific Visualisation Studio / svs.gsfc.nasa.gov

In this animation a wide angle lens makes the distant Earth look tiny. And with the camera fixed on just the moon this time, the sun and Earth appear to dance around it in the background.

It lacks the large dark spots, called maria, that make up the familiar Man in the Moon on the near side. Instead, craters of all sizes crowd together over the entire far side. The far side is also home to one of the largest and oldest impact features in the solar system, the South Pole-Aitken basin, visible here as a slightly darker bruise covering the bottom third of the disk.

The images used in the above animations come from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio / Via svs.gsfc.nasa.gov

LRO launched in 2009 – fifty years after we received the first pictures of the far side of the moon from the Luna 3 spacecraft. The difference between the two is astounding.

You can watch the whole video below if you like.

View this video on YouTube

NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio / Via svs.gsfc.nasa.gov

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