The people at NASA have done the impossible, in a manner of speaking, by producing a video that shows the moon in rotation. In so doing, they have created a video that allows everyone to get a glimpse of the dark side of the moon. (Cue the Pink Floyd music.) How'd they do that?
Space.com reported (via Yahoo News) Sept. 18 that NASA has put together a series of images into a composite of the far side -- along with images of the near side -- of the moon and set the composite image twirl. And it is with this image that the layman can see that the dark side of the moon isn't exactly dark at all (the sun warms the far side as well as the near side, it would appear). In fact, the far side of the moon enjoys sunlight just as much as the near -- or Earth -- side does.
As anyone with a fifth grade education knows, the moon is "tidally locked" into its orbit around the Earth, which means that the same side always faces the planet. However, what many still do not know is that the moon rotates. It just does so slowly, keeping the same face pointed toward the Earth at all times.
The new video, which is compiled of 36 near-complete images of the lunar surface, shows both the near and far sides of the moon as they would look under direct sunlight. As the title suggests, the effect is indeed "mesmerizing."
The 36 images and time-lapse video were created using data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a $504 million probe that launched in June 2009. The LRO circles the moon at an altitude of 30 miles.
The LRO's WAC (Wide Angle Camera) has racked up considerable photographic data of the lunar surface, taking pictures of the moon under different lighting conditions.
Only a few human beings having ever directly observed the far side (the dark side) of the moon. All were American astronauts, part of the NASA moon missions that went to Earth's nearest neighbor and back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The haunting music soundtrack to the spinning lunar orb is an original composition by Mark Peterson (and not Pink Floyd), according to information posted at YouTube.