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Chinese satellite snaps image of the Moon from the side we never see

Published Feb 5th, 2019 7:06PM EST

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The Moon dominates the night sky and, as the closest large body to Earth, we get to see it plenty. Unfortunately, since the Moon only shows us one face thanks to its tidal lock with Earth, and its far side is rarely the subject of photography.

Now, thanks to China’s efforts to learn as much as possible about the least-studied side of the Moon, we have a brand new view of it. The image, which was captured by the Longjiang-2 satellite that was sent skyward last year, even features Earth photobombing scene in the background.

The tiny imaging satellite was sent into space as part of China’s Chang’e-4 mission preparations. The country’s space agency sent communication hardware into lunar orbit so that it could relay information back and forth between the lander and rover on the Moon’s far side and engineers back on Earth.

Cees Bassa of CAMRAS writes:

After a radio-quiet period to avoid interfering with the Chang’e 4 Lunar landing, [Longjiang-2] became active again on 13 January 2019. The first opportunity to take photos of Earth and Moon were on 3 February, on which a command was sent to take another timelapse. The first image from this timelapse was downloaded with the Dwingeloo telescope on February 4, 2019. For the first time, it the entire Moon and Earth are in view.

In this image, we get a birds-eye view of the the Moon’s “backside,” complete with a wealth of interesting features that we don’t often get to see. Meanwhile, the tiny sphere of Earth is visible in the bottom right, appearing bright blue against the pale monotone of the Moon.

As space agencies like NASA gear up and renewed interest in Moon exploration grows, we might learn a few more secrets about our nearest neighbor, and will hopefully get some more lovely images like this one.