A tiny Chinese satellite has beamed back a stunning image of Earth as seen from behind the moon. The incredible photo offers a rare look at the lunar far side – the side that always faces away from Earth – while also showing an unusual, eerie perspective of our planet.
In the snapshot, the Earth is dwarfed by the shining orb of its natural satellite as the two celestial bodies come together in a unique portrait of the so-called “dark” side of the moon.
The jaw-dropping photo was taken on February 3 by a Chinese mini-satellite called Longjiang-2. As the Inquisitr previously reported, the tiny mini-sat first took to space on May 20, 2018, together with its now-lost twin, Longjiang-1. The spacecraft hitched a ride into space along with China’s Queqiao relay satellite — and has been orbiting the moon since June of 2018.
While the Queqiao satellite is part of China’s Chang’e-4 lunar mission – and is currently relaying communication between Earth and the rover and lander duo that touched down on the lunar far side in early January – the Longjiang-2 is tasked with conducting radio-astronomy research. Also known as DSLWP-B, short for Discovering the Sky at Longest Wavelengths Pathfinder, the mini-sat has been taking glorious photos of Earth and the moon — the latest of which has managed to capture an epic view of the lunar far side.
This photo of Earth and the Lunar farside, maybe our best ever, was taken yesterday by the Chinese Lunar satellite DSLWP-B (Longjiang-2). The Dwingeloo telescope downloaded the photo from the satellite this morning. More info at https://t.co/sKt7w9mol9 pic.twitter.com/IsnyvqekTz— Dwingeloo Telescoop (@radiotelescoop) February 4, 2019
The spectacular photo was downloaded by the Dwingeloo radio observatory in the Netherlands, which was able to get the image after an “agonizing” 20 minutes of downloading 16 kilobytes of data in total. The Dwingeloo operators color-corrected the photo and took to Twitter on Monday to share the result.
As CNET points out, the jaw-dropping image shows a birds-eye view of the moon’s “backside,” unveiling an array of captivating features that normally remain elusive to Earth-bound observers. An annotated version of the photo — showing the names of many of the visible moon craters — is available on the website of the C.A. Muller Radio Astronomy Station (CAMRAS), which manages the Dwingeloo Radio Telescope.
According to CNET, this spectacular portrait of Earth and the moon – one which shows “both full disks as seen from behind the moon” – might be the first image of our planet photographed next to the lunar far side since 2014, when China’s Chang’e 5T1 spacecraft snapped a pic of both bodies together. The 2014 photo can be seen on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day website.
While the Dwingeloo team did perform color-correction on the Longjiang-2 photo, they released the original snapshot as well. The photo, which showcased a more violet-looking moon, was posted on Twitter by team member Tammo Jan Dijkema, one of the Dwingeloo operators.
This is the original resolution (640x480 pixels with heavy jpeg compression). Downloading these 16 kilobytes took almost 20 minutes. We did color-correct the original. pic.twitter.com/4XszxJOAmT— Tammo Jan Dijkema (@tammojan) February 5, 2019
The amazing photo of Earth and the lunar far side was captured by a camera linked to an amateur radio transceiver on board the Chinese mini-sat.
“The transceiver on board Longjiang-2 was designed to allow radio amateurs to downlink telemetry and relay messages through a satellite in lunar orbit, as well as command it to take and downlink images,” explained CAMRAS representatives.
A few months ago, the same Dwingeloo team received an entire series of splendid Earth-and-moon photos from the Longjiang-2 satellite, as reported by the Inquisitr at the time. Since then, the Chinese orbiter went quiet for a while, so as not to interfere with the Chang’e-4 moon landing.
It resumed operations on January 13.