The dark side of the Moon has been quite the enigma for many years, with the only footage of it having come from the Soviet Union’s Luna 3 spacecraft back in 1959. Thanks to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Deep Space Observatory, however, it no longer has to remain so mysterious.
The Million-Mile Photobomb
NASA has a satellite in space known as the Deep Space Climate Observatory Satellite, or DSCOVR. It floats above the Earth at a distance of one million miles. Like the name implies, its purpose is to monitor the Earth’s climate. It takes pictures of the Earth using different spectrums through the use of its Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera, or EPIC.
The name of DSCOVR’s camera is quite fitting in this case, as the photos snapped by the NASA satellite of the dark side of the moon are indeed pretty epic. The moon just happened to be transiting the Earth during the time that the DSCOVR satellite was observing the Earth and taking pictures with EPIC, so scientists were treated with a rare glimpse of the ever mysterious dark side of the moon, which people on Earth are never able to see due to a phenomenon known as tidal locking.
“A Brilliant Object in Dark Space”
The photos captured by DSCOVR’s EPIC show just how much larger and brighter the Earth is than the moon. Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t really a “dark side of the moon,” because the moon gets just as much lighting from the Sun on both sides. The term came around because the far side of the moon is unobservable from the Earth and always looks dark.
“It’s surprising how much brighter Earth is than the moon,” said Adam Szabo, a project scientist for DSCOVR at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Our planet is truly a brilliant object in dark space compared to the lunar surface,” he continued.
The Photography Process of the Deep Space Climate Observatory Satellite
The DSCOVR satellite used its EPIC camera to snap a series of photos over a five hour time frame. It then combined these photos into a smaller selection of images that were used to produce a time-lapse video showing the dark side of the moon as the moon transited the Earth. The images used contained three single-color pictures, and this is evident in the green hue on the right side of the moon, which NASA says is due to the celestial body’s movement during the process of photographing the dark side of the moon.