NASA Releases Images of the Moon Passing in Front of the Earth From a Million Miles Away

NASA Moon Image
In this image, the far side of the moon is seen illuminated by the sun. The Earth, in the distance, is 1 million miles away from NASA's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera, which snapped the picture. NASA/NOAA

NASA has just released a series of images of the "dark side" of the moon, seen fully illuminated by the sun and moving directly in front of the Earth last month.

The sequence was captured by NASA's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC for short) on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite that launched in February. The images were taken between 3:50 and 8:45 p.m. EDT on July 16, according to NASA.

DSCOVR is orbiting a whopping 1 million miles from Earth, making this a remarkably long-distance shot of the planet. For comparison, the iconic "Earthrise" photo from 1968 was taken from 240,000 miles away. The even more famous "Blue Marble" image of 1972 was taken from 28,000 miles away.

NASA Moon Gif
This animation shows images of the far side of the moon, illuminated by the sun, as it crosses between the DISCOVR spacecraft's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera camera and telescope and the Earth, 1 million miles away. NASA/NOAA

NASA explains that the images are "test" shots for EPIC, which will continue to stay trained on the fully illuminated Earth as it rotates, to collect images that will fill out a scientific picture of the Earth's ozone, vegetation and cloud height, as well as the aerosols in the planet's atmosphere. EPIC's regular observations are set to begin next month, which is great news for us: NASA promises to post "daily color images of Earth to a dedicated public website" 12 to 36 hours after EPIC snaps them.