This is what the moon looks like as it rotates

This fascinating time-lapse video from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter puts a real spin on the moon.

Far side of the moon
The LRO's wide-angle camera imaged the largely uniform and featureless far side of the moon. NASA

Why does the moon always looks the same from our perspective? It goes through phases, but the face it shows us changes very little because it's tidally locked to Earth.

The moon does indeed rotate. Since its own rotation is synchronized with its orbital period around our planet, all we see is one of its hemispheres.

But what would the moon look like without this synchronicity? Here's a video created from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter ( LRO ) data that shows us our satellite in all its spinning glory.

Soon to be joined by NASA's LADEE lunar probe , the LRO has been orbiting the moon since 2009, gathering images with its wide-angle camera.

The camera has a field of view of 90 degrees in monochrome mode and 60 degrees in multispectral mode, and has been used to image individual features and create mosaics of the moon.

In a video from NASA and Arizona State University, LRO imagery has been stitched together to create a seamless time-lapse movie of the moon's rotation, something we would expect to see if the satellite weren't tidally locked.

It begins with our view of the moon, but soon Mare Orientale, a ringed impact basin 600 miles across and more than 3 billion years old, comes into view as the moon rotates to the right.

The "dark" or far side of the moon is then seen. It's remarkable for having few features, and indeed appears "all beat up, no definition, just a lot of bumps and holes," as astronaut William Anders described it in 1968.

The lunar month has been condensed into 24 seconds in the LRO vid. Check it out below.

 

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