NASA’s four megapixel CCD camera known as the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) snapped a series of shots of the moon orbiting in front of our home planet, once again revealing a smoother dark side of the moon that was originally captured by a Soviet spacecraft in 1959. This dark side has much less basalt, which give it a more slick and consistent surface, according to National Geographic.
DSCOVR’s main task is to monitor solar winds, as well as the Earth’s atmosphere and vegetation — from about a million miles away, but every once in awhile a photo-op presents itself that is too tempting to pass up.
Many experts were more enthralled by the earth’s bright illumination than they were of the dull, uninviting appearance of the moon’s behind. “The back side looks like a sand pile my kids have played in for some time. It’s all beat up…just a lot of bumps and holes,” said William Anders of Apollo 8 in a CNN quote.
The back side looks like a sand pile my kids have played in for some time. It’s all beat up.
“It is surprising how much brighter Earth is than the moon,” echoed Adam Szabo, a DSCOVR scientist in Greenbelt, Maryland, in a NASA article. “Our planet is a truly brilliant object in dark space compared to the lunar surface.” Several images captured by the EPIC were strung together to make one GIF that follows the moon passing in front of the earth.
NASA says we can look forward to similar images about twice a year when the EPIC’s position is favorable for snapping the moon and the earth together. While the visual documentation of the dark side of the moon may not be very academically productive due to the data that has already been gathered in the past, these snapshots certainly provide some contemplative images that make many humans feel privileged to live upon such a enlightened ball of beauty and wonder.