A Chinese satellite is in lunar orbit right now and snapped this unbelievable image of the far side of the Moon, with a little Earth hanging out in the background. Captured on February 3rd, the picture offers a rare view of the Earth and Moon system together.
The image was taken by China’s Longjiang-2 satellite, which entered the Moon’s orbit in June 2018. This tiny probe was launched into space along with China’s Queqiao satellite, a communications probe that’s been critical for the country’s recent Chang’e-4 lunar lander. At the beginning of the year, Chang’e-4 successfully touched down on the far side of the Moon — the side that’s always facing away from Earth. Queqiao is located in a stable position near the Moon, where it relays radio signals from Longjiang-2 and the Chang’e-4 lander to Earth.
This photo of Earth and the Lunar farside, maybe our best ever, was taken yesterday by the Chinese Lunar satellite DSLWP-B (Longjiang-2). The Dwingeloo telescope downloaded the photo from the satellite this morning. More info at https://t.co/sKt7w9mol9 pic.twitter.com/IsnyvqekTz
— Dwingeloo Telescoop (@radiotelescoop) February 4, 2019
Longjiang-2 had a companion satellite, Longjiang-1, and both were tasked with orbiting and observing the Moon. But China ultimately lost contact with Longjiang-1 en route. Luckily, Longjiang-2 was a success, and it took some stunning pictures last fall.
During the Chang’e-4 landing, the satellite was quiet so that it wouldn’t interfere with connections between the Earth and the lander. But Longjiang-2 is active again. The probe started taking a time-lapse of the Earth-Moon system on February 3rd, and the first photo of that sequence was downloaded by the Dwingeloo Radio Observatory in the Netherlands yesterday.
This is the first time that Longjiang-2 has captured the entire Moon and Earth in one shot.