The Far Side of Moon: A Rare Glimpse from NASA

Here’s some­thing you don’t see every night: the far side of the Moon, pho­tographed by one of NASA’s Grav­i­ty Recov­ery and Inte­ri­or Lab­o­ra­to­ry (GRAIL) space­craft.

The Moon is “tidal­ly locked” in its orbit around the Earth, mean­ing its rota­tion­al and orbital peri­ods are exact­ly syn­chro­nized. As a result, we always see the same view of the Moon no mat­ter when or where (on Earth) we look at it. In this inter­est­ing video, released last week by NASA, we get a rare glimpse of the Moon’s oth­er side, start­ing with the north pole and mov­ing toward the heav­i­ly cratered south.

The video was cap­tured on Jan­u­ary 19 by the “MoonKAM” aboard one of a pair of GRAIL space­craft that were launched last Fall and began orbit­ing the Moon on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The pri­ma­ry mis­sion of GRAIL is to study the Moon’s inte­ri­or struc­ture and to learn more about its ther­mal evo­lu­tion.

GRAIL is also the first plan­e­tary mis­sion by NASA to car­ry instru­ments ded­i­cat­ed sole­ly to edu­ca­tion and pub­lic out­reach. The “KAM” in “MoonKAM” stands for Knowl­edge Acquired by Mid­dle school stu­dents. The pro­gram, led by for­mer astro­naut Sal­ly Ride, will engage fifth- to eighth-graders from across the coun­try in select­ing tar­get areas on the lunar sur­face to pho­to­graph and study. Edu­ca­tors inter­est­ed in par­tic­i­pat­ing can reg­is­ter at the MoonKAM web­site. To learn more about the video and GRAIL, see the NASA news release.


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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.