07.10.

1959: First Dark Side of the Moon Photos

1959: First Dark Side of the Moon Photos
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 7 October 1959
  • The photos caused quite a sensation because it turned out that side of the Moon was significantly different from the one visible from Earth. It is interesting that the far side of the Moon was first photographed by the Soviets rather than the Americans.

On this day mankind got its first chance to see the so-called “dark side of the Moon”.

As it is well-known, the Moon, due to synchronous rotation, is always facing towards the Earth with the same side. More precisely, one can see around 59% of the Moon’s surface from the earth due to the so-called Lunar libration.

The other side of the Moon, that which is not visible from the Earth, is better called the “far side of the Moon” because it actually receives the same amount of sunlight as the side facing towards us (albeit at different times).

The first photographs of the far side of the Moon were taken on this day in 1959 by the Soviet Luna 3 probe. The photos caused quite a sensation because it turned out that side of the Moon was significantly different from the one visible from Earth.

Namely, the far side of the Moon doesn’t have nearly as many lunar mares (dark, basalt plains formed by ancient volcanic eruptions). In addition, the craters there are much more densely packed.

It is interesting that the Soviets were the ones to name many geological formations on the far side of the Moon, simply because they were the first to examine it. For example, one of the rare mares on that side is called the “Sea of Moscow” (Mare Moscoviense).

It is also rather incredible that, to date, no successful landings have been made on the far side of the Moon. All landings and exploration have been performed on the side facing the Earth, mostly because this enabled easier telecommunication with the spacecraft.

The only human-made object to reach the far side of the Moon was the American Ranger 4 spacecraft, but this was an unplanned crash, and the craft didn’t send any data to Earth.

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