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.”