This 30-second clip was captured by one of NASA’s twin GRAIL satellites on Jan. 19, the first movie taken of the moon’s far side by the mission.
The entire far lunar hemisphere appears in the video, starting with the moon’s north pole. It then pans down over well-known features such as the giant impact basin Mare Orientale, located off to the right, and the prominent Drygalski crater, seen left of center, which contains a distinctive star-shaped formation created when a comet or asteroid smacked into the moon billions of years ago.
Because the moon is tidally locked to Earth, it always shows the same familiar face to our planet. The other hemisphere is sometimes referred to as the ‘dark side of the moon,’ though it actually receives equal sunlight as the facing side during the moon’s orbit.
Other than small slivers, the far side of the moon had never been seen by humanity before the space age, when the Soviet Luna 3 took pictures of it in 1959. The crew of Apollo 8 — Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders — was the first to directly observe the far side in 1968.