The Moon's Dark Side

In the dazzling display of a nighttime sky the stars play a supporting role to something even more spectacular – our Moon.

He’s basically an icon.

But how well do we really know this familiar face? Could it be that he has a hidden dark side?

To get the dirt, we need to understand how the Moon moves.

We know that the earth spins around – or rotates – once a day, or every 23 hours and 56 minutes to be exact.

Well, the moon rotates too, but much, much slower.  How long does it take the Moon to rotate? About a month.

But the Moon’s got another move. It’s called revolving, or orbiting. Sounds similar to spinning but, it’s totally different.

Interestingly, when the Moon revolves, or orbits, the earth, it also takes a month.

And, because these two moves – rotating and orbiting – are done in the exact same amount of time, we only get to see one side of the Moon.

We call that side the “near side.” The opposite side – the side that never faces the earth – is not called the “dark side of the Moon,” as Pink Floyd would have us believe. It’s actually called “the far side of the Moon.”

The only people who have seen this side are astronauts traveling through space.  But some far-side flying paparazzi managed to snap some pics. The first photos, taken by Luna 3, weren’t so clear, but today we’ve got a great view of every last crater, thanks to NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

So, that’s the side that the Moon doesn’t want you to see. He might be the night sky’s brightest, but he is such a diva. 

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