Moon and earth

Bad Astronomy:

The far side of the Moon and the Earth seen together from the Chinese lunar satellite Longjiang-2. Credit: CNSA / Dwingeloo

That lovely photograph was taken on February 3, 2019, by the Chinese Longjiang-2 satellite, which is orbiting the Moon. It’s a small photo, just 640×480 pixels, but what it shows belies its size; that is the Earth and Moon in one shot, a single image framing all of humanity.

Doesn’t the Moon look strange? That’s because you’re seeing the far side — in fact, the geometry dictates the only way to see the Earth and Moon together in one shot from lunar orbit is if you are over the far side at the time.

But that’s the side forever pointing away from Earth, so we cannot see it from the ground, or even low Earth orbit. To see this terrain you have to go to the Moon and then a bit past it; this view is a gift of the space age.

As is the famous earthrise photo.

It’s sad, isn’t it. We start to discover amazing things about space and even land research vehicles on Mars, and at the same time we wipe out all the insects and keep racing down a path leading to environmental disaster.

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