Chinese satellite fits rare photo of far side lunar and Earth together



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The far side of the moon with the Earth in the background.
Image: CAMS / CNSA

A unique view of the Moon, with its side opposite the camera and an eerily tiny Earth lurking, was captured by the Longjiang-2 Chinese satellite.

The Longjiang-2 Chinese satellite, along with the Queqiao communications probe, has been in lunar orbit since June 2018. Longjiang-1, a sister satellite of Longjiang-2, failed to leave Earth orbit after launch at the end of May , but it was the only obscure point of what was otherwise a successful mission for the National Space Administration of China (CNSA) and its effort to study the opposite side of the Moon.

In early January, the lunar probe Chang & # 39; e-4, launched in December 2018, landed successfully on the opposite side of the Moon, installing its small robot, taking incredible photos, removing the temperature of the Moon's regolith, and even making some pioneers in lunar gardening. But none of this would be possible without the Longjiang-2 and Queqiao, which are serving as critical relay satellites, allowing mission controllers to keep in touch with the Chang-e-4 while it works on the hidden side of the Moon.

The Longjiang-2 is a microsatellite of only 20 inches in diameter, and is equipped with an optical camera from Saudi Arabia. The tiny satellite took beautiful pictures of the Moon after reaching lunar orbit in June 2018, but in early January 2019, while the CNSA carefully monitored the landing of Chang & # 39; e-4, invoked a period of radio silence to minimize the interference, according to CAMRAS, who manages the Dwingeloo radio telescope in the northeast of the Netherlands. This 25-meter rotating radio telescope – the oldest of its kind still in service – is helping the CNSA with its radio communications for the lunar mission.

The CNSA suspended the Longjiang-2 quiet period in mid-January, allowing the satellite to take photographs once more. On February 3, the CNSA caused the satellite to capture a lapse of time from the Moon to Earth in the background, which was then transmitted to the Dwingeloo telescope the next day, CAMROS said. It is the first photo captured by Longjiang-2 which shows the far side of the Moon and Earth together in the same frame.

CAMRAS expects to receive more lunar photos next week, so there's more to come. It is important to note that the Longjiang-2 will do more than just take cool pictures – it is also programmed to conduct low-frequency radio amateur and amateur radio experiments, thanks to its separation from the ionosphere of our planet.

[CAMRAS via Verge]

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