The 30-second clip (after the jump) sweeps from the moon’s northern pole to the southern polar region, passing, among other features, the Mare Orientale, a 560-mile wide dry sea that extends onto the side we can see from Earth.
According to the press release NASA released with the footage:
In the video, the north pole of the moon is visible at the top of the screen as the spacecraft flies toward the lunar south pole. One of the first prominent geological features seen on the lower third of the moon is the Mare Orientale, a 560-mile-wide (900 kilometer) impact basin that straddles both the moon’s near and far side.
The clip ends with rugged terrain just short of the lunar south pole. To the left of center, near the bottom of the screen, is the 93-mile-wide (149 kilometer) Drygalski crater with a distinctive star-shaped formation in the middle. The formation is a central peak, created many billions of years ago by a comet or asteroid impact.
The GRAIL program consists of two small spacecraft outfitted with cameras. They reached lunar orbit on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s day. This footage was taken on Jan. 19.
The moon is “tidally locked,” so the same half of its body has always faced away from the Earth and, until now, remained unfilmed. It has, however, been photographed, first by the Russians in 1959. The dark side has experienced far less volcanism, perhaps because the crust is thicker there.
And for bonus awesomeness, here is a freaky photo of the giant Vesta asteroid, shot in September. It is located in the solar asteroid belt lying between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists are reasonably certain it is filled with the souls of the damned. Well, not scientists so much as me. Look at it. Creepy.
Farside moon photo byNASA/Goddard/Arizona State University