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OSIRIS-REx Sees the Moon Like We Can’t

11 Oct 2017, 16:11 UTC
OSIRIS-REx Sees the Moon Like We Can’t
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

The Moon imaged by OSIRIS-REx on Sept. 25, 2017. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona.
On September 22 NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft made a “slingshot” gravity-assist pass by Earth in order to adjust the angle of its flight toward Bennu. Mission scientists took the opportunity to test out the spacecraft’s cameras with planned observations of Earth and the Moon, and I’m happy to report that everything worked out perfectly! Some of the first images shared with the public were of Earth from a distance of 106,000 miles; this one shows the Moon imaged from 746,000 miles away three days later on Sept. 25. It’s literally a view of the Moon we can’t ever get from Earth!

Why can’t we see the Moon like this? Simple: because it was taken from beyond the Moon’s orbit, it shows terrain on the lunar surface that never faces Earth. The Moon is tidally locked with Earth, meaning its rotation is at a 1:1 rate to its orbit and it always keeps the same side facing Earthward, with only a slight bit of variation over the course of a year (libration). So almost half of the Moon is never visible from Earth—this is called the farside (and sometimes ...

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