The Far Side of the Moon

By Bob Berman
Near Side Moon Far Side Moon

Near Side of the Moon on the left and Far Side of the Moon on the right.


We never see the far side of the Moon or what some people call the dark side of the Moon. Do you think it looks identical to the near side that we do see?

Most people know that the same side of the Moon always faces us on Earth. (This is because the Moon’s orbital period is the same as its rotation around its axis.)  Some people imagine that the side that’s turned away from Earth is always dark.

On October 4, 1959, Russia’s Luna 3 was launched towards the Moon, where it later became the first vehicle to send back images of the Moon’s far side.


The side of the Moon that faces away from us is no more dark than the side we see. It’s lit up by the Sun or it’s in shade—similar to the side that we see.

Even more interesting: The distant hemisphere looked entirely different: Instead of the large dark lava spots that we see on the “near side,” the far side has many craters—scars received during its first few hundred million years of life.

The Dark Side?

There is no continually dark “side” of the Moon. Every part of the Moon has both day and night in half–month intervals. 

In fact, it’s our near side of the Moon that actually reflects less light than the far side because our side has lots of dark, smooth, low-lying plains (from ancient seas of molten magma) that do not reflect the light as well.

So, the near side is the dark(er) side!

Below are images of the Moon. The near side is on the left and the far side is on the right. Which side looks darker?


Look at the near side yourself! If you have binoculars, look at the Moon during dusk before the Moon is too bright in the dark sky. You should be able to see those dark lunar lowlands.

Since 1959, several missions by NASA and other space agencies have shown us more of the Moon’s far side. 

Below is another image of the fully-illuminated far side of the Moon that is not visible from Earth. These were captured by NASA’s DSCOVR satellite on July 15, 2015. Twice a year, the satellite is about to capture images of the Moon and Earth together as its own orbit crosses the orbital plane of the Moon. 

On the far side, you can easily see the Mare Moscoviense (Sea of Moscow) and the Tsiolkovskiy crater.

Note that the Earth’s North Pole is toward the upper left, based on the angle of the satellite’s camera.)

Click here to read about the “Near Side of the Moon.”


The 2005 Old Farmer's Almanac

Reader Comments

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Dark Side of the Moon

It's still a great album.

The daily OFA calendar

The daily OFA calendar carries the second full moon of this August as the Blue Moon but the Garden Calendar says it's the RED MOON as well. Any reason for this..?

Hi, Tom, The right-hand pages

Hi, Tom, The right-hand pages of The Old Farmer's Almanac and our other products list Native American or colonial names for the full Moon. It is our style to list an alternate name for the second full Moon in a month if one occurs. In this case, the Full Red Moon, which is an Algonquin name. The name Full Red Moon can look like a mistake when considering the term "Blue Moon," which is commonly defined as the second full Moon in a month, such as occurs this August. We could have labeled the full Moon on August 31 a Blue Moon, but this would not have been a Native American or colonial name, and we wanted to be consistent. (In future, we will keep this in mind as we select an alternate name!) --Your OFA editors

Ok I'm really lost now... Is

Ok I'm really lost now... Is this month a waxing or waning moon??? Someone please help.... Thanks I really enjoy this site always something to read and the books you can't put down....Cormac

Hi Cormac, Thanks for

Hi Cormac, Thanks for commenting! The Moon goes through one whole cycle in about 30 days or so. Most months will have one Full moon, but some have two on occasion. Today is the Full Sturgeon Moon. Until it reaches Full, it is waxing (in other words, the portion of the Moon that you see is becoming larger.) After the Full moon, it is waning. Hope that helps! You can check out our Moon phase calendar page for more information, and a visual:

There are 2 full moons in

There are 2 full moons in December (2 and 31). Are each known as the Full Cold Moon? Is there a special name associated with the second full moon of a month?

A Blue Moon is the second

A Blue Moon is the second full Moon in a month with two full Moons. A Blue Moon will occur on average every two or three years. In December, we tend to call the first full Moon the "Full Cold Moon" and the second Moon the "Full Long Nights Moon," also a name used by Native American tribes. These names, and some variations, were used by the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior.

Are there names for the two

Are there names for the two upcoming full moons on August 31, 2012 and July 31, 2015?