NASA has released a stunning new animation created from images taken by a satellite positioned a million miles from Earth which reveal the dark side of the moon as it passes by the planet.
The images were captured by NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), according to Mashable. Taken on July 16 between 3:50 p.m. ET and 8:45 p.m. ET, the test images are the product of the satellite’s EPIC camera. They reveal the far side of the moon (which never turns to face the Earth, since the moon is tidally locked), illuminated by sunlight as it transits across the face of the planet.
— NASA (@NASA) August 5, 2015
“The far side of the moon was not seen until 1959 when the Soviet Luna 3 spacecraft returned the first images. Since then, several NASA missions have imaged the lunar far side in great detail,” NASA noted.
Though the far side of the moon has been photographed before, the new images are the first to be taken at such a great distance while the lunar surface is illuminated, as Time reports. Adam Szabo, DSCOVR project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, observed that the Earth represents a stark contrast to the moon as it passes by.
“It is surprising how much brighter Earth is than the moon. Our planet is a truly brilliant object in dark space compared to the lunar surface.”
— Phil Plait (@BadAstronomer) August 5, 2015
Carried aloft by a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle on February 11, DSCOVR will begin its primary mission next month. The satellite will regularly beam back pictures of the illuminated side of the Earth, which will be made available to the public within 12 to 36 hours after they are taken, as the Inquisitr previously reported. The images will allow scientists to track atmospheric data, including vegetation growth and cloud height. In its current position, DSCOVR will also be capable of imaging the far side of the moon as it passes the Earth roughly twice a year.
— Tiny Fish Printing (@tinyfishprints) July 21, 2015
In addition to returning photos of the Earth and moon, DSCOVR is designed to monitor the space around them, providing advance warning of any potentially hazardous solar storms, which can negatively impact satellites in orbit and power grids on the planet’s surface.
[Image: NASA/ NOAA via Mashable]