NASA EPIC camera captures images of moon's dark side
Lunar far side, never visible from Earth, fully illuminated in new photos from space
The far side of the moon — never visible from Earth — is now on view as an infinite-looping GIF, thanks to images captured by a NASA camera more than a million kilometres away.
In a series of images taken by NASA's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) on July 16, the so-called dark side of the moon is fully illuminated as the moon crosses between the camera and Earth.
Take a look at this looping GIF of the movement, released by NASA on Wednesday.
Far side of the moon seen by our ‘EPIC’ camera on <a href="https://twitter.com/NOAASatellites">@NOAASatellites</a>’ <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DSCOVR?src=hash">#DSCOVR</a>: <a href="http://t.co/DZQLWpFDuB">http://t.co/DZQLWpFDuB</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EarthRightNow?src=hash">#EarthRightNow</a> <a href="http://t.co/OQbjVacxkJ">pic.twitter.com/OQbjVacxkJ</a>—@NASA
The moon is seen moving across the Pacific Ocean near North America. You can also see the North Pole on the upper left corner of the image, reflecting the orbital tilt of Earth from the camera's perspective.
Although the far side of the moon is never visible from Earth — because the moon is tidally locked to Earth — this isn't the first time we've got a glimpse of the dark side. The Soviet Luna 3 spacecraft returned the first images, followed by NASA missions that showed the side in greater detail.
EPIC, a four-megapixel CCD camera and telescope, is expected to begin regular observations in September. It is designed to help scientists study the daily variations of the planet by providing images of ozone, vegetation, cloud height and aerosols, NASA said.
The camera and telescope are carried by the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite, which is orbiting about 1.5 million kilometres away from Earth at a location called the Lagrange point 1. The location, between Earth and the sun, gives the satellite a unique vantage point to see both the Earth and the sun.
For those who can't get enough of the rare lunar beauty, a time-lapse sequence of the moon's movement was also posted to U.S. President Barack Obama's Twitter account.
Pretty incredible time lapse of the dark side of the moon passing Earth from <a href="https://twitter.com/NASA">@NASA</a>. American ingenuity at work! <a href="http://t.co/JKep9bcxGQ">pic.twitter.com/JKep9bcxGQ</a>—@POTUS