Video Shows Phases of the Moon from its Dark Side


We got our first glimpse of the far side of the moon in 1959, and now, 56 years later, NASA is giving us another look—and it's incredible. Using data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the agency has created this animation, which shows the phases of the far side of the moon from two views: First is a telescopic view, with the camera fixed on the Earth-Moon line; the second uses a short focal length, with the camera fixed to the moon's surface, that makes the earth appear small in the background.

LRO has returned hundreds of terabytes of data since its launch in 2009, which scientists have used to create highly detailed and accurate maps of the moon's far side. It looks a lot different from the side that faces us. According to NASA's website, "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."

In addition to map making, scientists are also using LRO to determine the moon's mineralogy, examine its potentially volcanic history, search for water, and look for future landing sites. It's also snapped photos of the Apollo landing sites.