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China photograph the far side of the moon with Earth in the background

The far side of the moon with Earth in the background Credits: CAMRAS / CNSA

The Chinese satellite Longjiang-2 has recently captured a unique photo of the far side of the moon facing the camera lens with our planet in the background.  From this unusual angle Earth looks surprisingly tiny. 

From the moon…. to the Earth

There is no point in zooming in as you won’t be able to see the Chinese rover Change’e-4 currently on a mission on the far side of the moon.  It is too small.  However the view point is still very unique. The astonishing shot comes from the Chinese satellite Longjiang-2 as well as the relay-probe Queqiao, which has been orbiting the moon since last June.  Without these two devices none of the information collected by the Chang’e-4 mission could be transmitted back to Earth.

Longjiang-2 is a micro-satellite that only measures 50 centimetres in diameter, which is equipped with an optic camera.  Shortly after it started orbiting the moon last June, the device started taking photographs.  However it has been in a hibernation mode for a while.  After waking up a few days ago, Longjiang-2 has started back at work and, on the 3 February, it took this first class photo of the moon and the Earth in the distance.

The main aims for the Chang’e-4 mission

As for the Chang’e-4 mission, which sent back the first photos of the far side of the moon a few weeks ago, work has well and truly started.  We learned only a few days ago that it has been a lot colder than expected dropping to -190°C at night.  The side that faces Earth is also very cold but not as cold as that.  According the leading researchers of the mission, the soil composition could explain these differences in temperature as the far side of the moon is exposed to more sunlight than the side that faces Earth.

However the hardest has already passed.  That is to say, before the next night that last the equivalent of 14 days on Earth!  Since the 30 January a new day finally arrived and the rover can restart it’s work again.  One of the main aims of the mission is to learn more about the history of the Universe. Without any human interference, Chang’e-4 can try to detect minute traces of the Big Bang over the next few months.  More precisely, researchers are looking to understand more about the strange period of Universe inflation which is the extremely violent expansion phase that happened 10 to 35 seconds after the Big Bang.

The mission will also evaluate water distribution on our satellite.  Many space agencies, including China, hope to establish a sustainable Lunar base.  The idea is that this will be a sort of relay-point that will make it easier to reach Mars.  However staying on the moon means that we need to be able to have access to water on site. These are the primary interests of research for the Chang’e-4 mission.


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