China’s Chang’e-4 probe continues its journey and observations of the “dark” side of the Moon, and it recently captured a stunning panoramic photo of the lunar far side.
After Chang’e-4’s historic landing on the far side of the Moon on Jan. 2, the Chinese probe has been releasing new images of the part of the Moon that humans can’t see from Earth. The latest pictures from the lunar probe released via Chinese state broadcaster CCTV showed the Jade Rabbit 2 rover and the Chang’e-4 spacecraft that transported it to the Earth’s satelllite.
Li Chunlai, deputy director of the National Astronomical Observatories of China and commander-in-chief of the ground application system of Chang’e 4, revealed that one of the images of the “dark” side of the Moon is a 360-degree panorama that was made by combining 80 photos. The individual pictures were captured by a camera on the probe after it released the rover onto the unexplored lunar surface, according to China’s state news agency Xinhua.
The stunning image showed the rover’s tracks, as well as the many small craters in the area it explored. Check out the panoramic image of the far side of the Moon below.
According to a statement from China’s Lunar and Deep Space Exploration (CLEP), scientists have already completed a preliminary analysis of the lunar surface topography around the site where the Chang’e-4 landed based on the image.
The far side of the Moon is known as the dark side because it is the part of the satellite that faces away from Earth, and thus normally cannot be seen. Prior to the Chang’e-4’s touchdown, we had not managed to actually land a spacecraft on this unexplored area of the Moon. Thus, it has remained comparatively unknown and has a different composition from sites on the near side, where previous moon missions landed.
Aside from the panorama, the China National Space Administration also released a 12-minute video of Chang’e-4’s landing on the dark side of the Moon. This was apparently made by combining 4,700 pictures captured by the onboard camera.
China is only the third country after the U.S. and the then-Soviet Union to successfully land on the Moon. The country reached the lunar surface for the first time when Chang’e-3 landed on the Moon’s near side in 2013.