Big Picture

Peek at the dark side of the moon

PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Nasa has released stunning images that show a rarely seen dark side of the Moon.

The image, released on Wednesday by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows the far side of the Moon, illuminated by the Sun, as it crosses between the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (Epic) and telescope, and the Earth, more than 1.5 million km away .

The view is impossible to see from Earth because the Moon faces the same direction throughout its orbit. This is because the Moon is tidally locked to Earth - it always shows the same face as it completes a full orbit every month or so.

That means the only way to get a look at the far side of the Moon is from a distant spacecraft.

"It is surprising how much brighter Earth is than the Moon," said DSCOVR project scientist Adam Szabo, at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centre.

"Our planet is a truly brilliant object in dark space compared with the lunar surface," he added.

The far side of the Moon was first seen in 1959 in images taken by the Soviet Luna 3 spacecraft.

Since then, several Nasa missions have taken images of the lunar dark side in great detail.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2015, with the headline 'Peek at the dark of the moon'. Print Edition | Subscribe