Quantcast
Connect with us

What’s on the far side of the Moon?

Published

on

Looking up at the silvery orb of the Moon, you might recognize familiar shadows and shapes on its face from one night to the next. You see the same view of the Moon our early ancestors did as it lighted their way after sundown.

Only one side of the spherical Moon is ever visible from Earth – it wasn’t until 1959 when the Soviet Spacecraft Luna 3 orbited the Moon and sent pictures home that human beings were able to see the “far side” of the Moon for the first time.

ADVERTISEMENT

Comparison of humanity’s first glimpse of the lunar far side and the same view thanks to LRO data 50 years later.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio, CC BY

A phenomenon called tidal locking is responsible for the consistent view. The Earth and its Moon are in close proximity and thus exert significant gravitational forces on each other. These tidal forces slow the rotations of both bodies. They locked the Moon’s rotation in sync with its orbital period relatively soon after it formed – as a product of a collision between a Mars-sized object and the proto-Earth, 100 million years after the solar system coalesced.

The Moon’s orbital period and rotational period are the same length of time.

Now the Moon takes one trip around the Earth in the same amount of time it takes to make one rotation around its own axis: about 28 days. From Earth, we always see the same face of the Moon; from the Moon, the Earth stands still in the sky.

Buzz Aldrin descends from the lunar module to the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969.
JSC/NASA, CC BY

The near side of the Moon is well studied because we can see it. The astronauts landed on the near side of the Moon so they could communicate with NASA here on Earth. All of the samples from the Apollo missions are from the near side.

Although the far side of the Moon isn’t visible from our vantage point, and with all due respect to Pink Floyd, it is not accurate to call it the dark side of the Moon. All sides of the moon experience night and day just like we do here on Earth. All sides have equal amounts of day and night over the course of a single month. A lunar day lasts about two Earth weeks.

ADVERTISEMENT

With modern satellites, astronomers have completely mapped the lunar surface. A Chinese mission, Chang’e 4, is currently exploring the Aitken Basin on the far side of the Moon — the first such mission ever landed there. Researchers hope Chang’e 4 will help answer questions about the crater’s surface features and test whether things can grow in lunar soil. A privately funded Israeli mission, Beresheet, started as a mission to compete for the Google Lunar X Prize. Despite crashing during an attempted landing earlier this month, the Beresheet team still won the Moon Shot Award.

Being shielded from civilization means the far side of the moon is “radio dark.” There, researchers can measure weak signals from the universe that would otherwise be drowned out. Chang’e 4, for instance, will be able to observe low-frequency radio light coming from the Sun or beyond that’s impossible to detect here on the Earth due to human activity, such as TV and radio broadcasts and other forms of communication signals. Low-frequency radio peers back in time to the very first stars and the very first black holes, giving astronomers a greater understanding of how the structures of the universe began forming.

Arrows indicate position of Chang’e 4 lander on the floor of the Moon’s Von Kármán crater. The sharp crater behind and to the left of the landing site is 12,800 feet across and 1,970 feet deep.
NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University, CC BY

Rover missions also investigate all sides of the Moon as space scientists prepare for future human missions, looking to the Moon’s resources to help humanity get to Mars. For instance, water – discovered by NASA’s LCROSS satellite beneath the Moon’s north and south poles in 2009 – can be broken up into hydrogen and oxygen and used for fuel and breathing.

ADVERTISEMENT

Researchers are getting closer to exploring the Moon’s polar craters, some of which have never seen the light of day – literally. They are deep and in just the right place to never have the Sun shine onto the crater floor. There are certainly dark parts of the Moon, but the whole far side isn’t one of them.The Conversation

Wayne Schlingman, Director of the Arne Slettebak Planetarium, The Ohio State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

ADVERTISEMENT

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and legal efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. And unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from billionaires and corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click to donate by check.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]. Send news tips to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Facebook

Trump has been ‘insulated’ by his wealth to never have to learn from his mistakes: biographer

Published

on

President Donald Trump's inherited wealth has meant he's never had to learn from his mistakes, Trump biographer Tim O'Brien told MSNBC's Brian Williams on Thursday.

"Bloomberg Opinion writer and our next guest Tim O’Brien writes today, 'Yes, of course, you need a certain kind of appalling narcissism to be comfy promoting yourself as heaven-sent in a televised press briefing and as a deity on Twitter. It’s doubly unhinged when you’re doing this as president,'" Williams said. "He goes on 'The Trump of the past few weeks is the same disordered figure of the past several decades with, I suspect, a big dollop of something new blended in: unbridled and unmanageable panic.'"

Continue Reading

Facebook

‘Both Putin and Xi will be voting Trump in 2020’: NYT columnist says Russia and China want ‘turmoil and chaos’

Published

on

The Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China are both rooting for President Donald Trump to win re-election in 2020, a New York Times columnist argued on MSNBC on Thursday.

Thomas Friedman was interviewed by Lawrence O'Donnell on "The Last Word."

"What do we know about how the leaders of other countries see Donald Trump at this stage in their dealings with him?" O'Donnell asked. "Especially this weekend, when it comes at the end of a week in which they’ve heard him call himself the King of Israel, they have heard him say he is The Chosen One. They have heard all the crazy things that everyone here has heard the president say."

Continue Reading
 

Facebook

Trump is ‘not a stable genius’: GOP strategist says the president ‘doesn’t remember who and where he is’

Published

on

President Donald Trump's mental fitness is lacking, a top Republican strategist explained on "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell.

Rick Wilson, the author of the 2018 bestselling book Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever, blasted the commander-in-chief.

"Rick Wilson, your assessment of where the president stands as he heads off to the G7 summit?" O'Donnell asked.

"I think Donald Trump has had a week in which he is proving that this isn’t 87-dimensional chess game, this isn't some masterful strategy of communications or persuasion," Wilson replied. "This is an old man who is sick and who has problems and who has mental disconnects and who has aphasias and who has moments where he doesn’t remember who and where he is."

Continue Reading
 
 

Thank you for whitelisting Raw Story!

As a special thank you, from now until August 31st, we're offering you a discounted rate of $5.99/month to subscribe and get ad-free access. We're honored to have you as a reader. Thank you. :) —Elias, Membership Coordinator
LEARN MORE
close-link
close-image