Earth Matters

2016 Tournament Earth Champion: The Dark Side of the Moon

April 5th, 2016 by Adam Voiland


No, that is not a photograph of the death star orbiting Earth. It is the winner of NASA Earth Observatory’s 2016 Tournament Earth—the Dark Side and the Bright Side. The image shows the fully illuminated far side of the Moon that is not visible from Earth.

The images were acquired by the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) on the DSCOVR satellite, which orbits about 1.6 million kilometers (1 million miles) from Earth. EPIC maintains a constant view of the fully illuminated Earth as it rotates. About twice a year the camera captures images of the Moon and Earth together as the orbit of DSCOVR crosses the orbital plane of the Moon.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 4.45.40 PM

The Moon faced some stiff competition on its journey to the championship. In the course of the tournament, it faced a trio of hurricanes over the Pacific, the electric eye of Cyclone Bansi, an underwater volcano, and the wrath of Mount St. Helens. The final round came down to a slugfest between the Moon and an impressionistic bloom in the Baltic Sea caused by a profusion of cyanobacteria. When the voting was over, the Dark Side/Bright Side finished with 59 percent of the vote.

While we aren’t aware of any homecoming parades to honor the 2016 champion, watching the video above (or listening to all of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon) seems like a fitting way to celebrate. The images in the movie below were taken over the course of five hours on July 16, 2015. The North Pole is toward the upper left, reflecting the orbital tilt of Earth from the vantage point of the spacecraft. The far side of the Moon was first observed in 1959, when the Soviet Luna 3 spacecraft returned the first images. Since then, several missions by NASA and other space agencies have imaged the lunar far side.


10 Responses to “2016 Tournament Earth Champion: The Dark Side of the Moon”

  1. Albert says:

    If you go down the page you can watch the full video of the moon crossing the Earth and you’ll notice that while the Earth rotates (over a period of 5 hours) the moon does NOT rotate at all. Remember the moon keeps the same side always facing Earth so it has to always rotate to maintain that.
    It’s just a flat cut out image of the moon, composited over the top of images of a rotating Earth.

    Also notice the strange green outline on the moon, something you’ll often find with the use of green screen and compositing.

    • Jared Freedman says:

      I mean, the moon SHOULD NOT appear to rotate in this picture. You said yourself the image is over 5 hours, the moon takes about 655 hours to rotate and the Earth takes 24 hours to rotate, you would not see them rotate the same amount in 5 hours, you would not notice the rotation of the moon at all.

      I see why you think it should rotate that fast though. The movement across the screen seems to be keeping pace with the rotation of Earth so you would think it would face it like one side of the moon is tethered to one part of Earth rotating with it, but this is just what things look like when you zoom in, but are not close. That would mean the moon would go around the Earth in 24 hours and rotate in 24 hours, then you would see it rotate like you are imagining it is. The same part of the Earth DOES NOT face the moon, if that were the case, only one part of the Earth could ever see the moon and it would always be in the same part of the sky. The moon would have to be about 26,000 miles away to be in that kind of orbit a geostationary orbit, it’s actually 230,000 miles away.
      You can realize this with like 10 seconds of thinking…

      Also, greenscreen? That’s used for replacing a green background with another image, that doesn’t make any kind of sense. Even if this was fake, there would never need to be any green screen type work involved at all. Do you think if someone made this picture that they would leave a green outline like that? This is called called purple fringing(notice the purple on the other side) this is a type of chromatic aberration caused by light bending through a lens or by different parts of the sensor being adjusted for different amounts of exposure.

      You need to work on your critical thinking skills. Most people don’t know anything about chromatic aberration or how greenscreen works, but to not understand that something taking 655 hours to rotate would not show as much rotation in 5 hours as something that rotates in 24 hours is just bad thinking.

    • Surferbeto says:

      Quite wrong about the green screen, Albert. And a little bit wrong about the cause of purpe fringing, Jared.

      Read here:

  2. Radomir says:


  3. John F McLaughlin says:

    Thank You All.

  4. Doug Crawford says:

    Just as well the dark side of the moon was not up against the recent lunar eclipse shadow moving across earth or it might not have won.

  5. Sudhir Sajwan says:

    NASA is doing wonderful work to enrich people with the knowledge of earth and univers.

  6. enzo lòpez f. says:

    Thanks for such valuable information

  7. Peter Curia says:

    Awe inspiring.

  8. Dennis Asfour says:

    ” the moon takes about 655 hours”
    What?? I was under the impression the moon doesn’t rotate, but it only it wobbles.
    Secondly, something is not right about that moon image.
    Questions I have:
    -Why is the moon without detail? I take a better detailed image with my Canon 40d and a 400mm lens shooting through a crappy atmosphere.
    – What is with the fake look of on overlay of the moon over the earth?
    It looks like the image is doctored up pretty bad or the lens on the satellite is horribly misaligned? Purple, black and yellow offset? What in the world is that? OMG…As a photographer myself, I find it strange that we would be seeing an image such as this, let alone it was selected as first place. Any explanations for this kind of photo would greatly enhance my knowledge, thanks!