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Dark Side of the Moon – Definition, Discovery, Phases of Moon

Sep 5, 2022

The “dark side of the moon” refers to the other hemisphere facing away from the earth. To be precise, the moon is not darker than any other surface region. The sunlight reaches equally on all sides or regions of the moon. So, why can’t we see the dark side of the moon? It only seems “black” to us because of the natural phenomenon known as “Tidal Locking,” which means that the other hemisphere of the moon can never be seen from earth.

The phrase “dark side” can lead to all kinds of misunderstandings. Therefore, it’s preferable to use the term “far side” to describe the side we can’t see.


Define the “Dark side of the Moon.”

Every time we gaze upward at the night sky to look at the moon, it always seems the same. The moon always appears to have the same scenery, regardless of how or from what angle we view it. The “dark side of the moon” is the portion of the moon’s surface that we cannot see from earth. It would be inaccurate to state that this portion or hemisphere of the moon is considered dark. This site is only accessible from space and never heads towards the Earth.

The Dark Side of the Moon Discovery: First Photograph

Dark Side of the Moon Discovery: The first photograph of the moon’s “dark side” was taken on October 7, 1959; this year is its 60th anniversary. While the photograph is blurry and hazy, it was the first time we had ever viewed this side of the moon. It was captured by the Soviet Luna 3 spacecraft. It transmitted lunar photos that no one on earth had ever seen before. These pictures show the moon’s dark side, which we can never see.


Why Can’t We See The Dark Side Of The Moon?

Humans cannot view the moon’s dark side because it is tidally locked to the earth. Both the moon and the earth continuously revolve around their respective axes. Since the planet earth and the moon are tidally locked, the time needed for the moon to revolve on its axis precisely equals the time needed to orbit the earth. Simply put, the moon’s rotational cycle and orbital period are equal.

Consequently, we can only see one side of the moon, which is known as the “near side” of the moon. In other words, we can say that since the alignment of the earth’s rotation and the moon’s revolution, we can view only the one side of the moon that constantly faces the earth. As a result, the other side, which we never see, is known as the “dark side” of the moon. 


What is Tidal Locking?

The moon has orbited the earth for millions of years, and over that time, gravitational perturbations between the two entities have somewhat changed both their orbits and rotational velocities.

Because the earth is significantly bigger than the moon, its rotation is slowed until it achieves a balance point. At this equilibrium, the moon becomes “tidally locked”—it’s time for full rotation around its axis coinciding with its time for a complete orbit around the earth.


Moon Surface Temperature

Moon Surface Temperature: The temperature can range from scorching hot to bone-chilling cold depending on where the sun is to the moon. The moon’s surface temperature is 127°C when sunlight shines on it and -173°C when the sun sets. The lunar day lasts 13.5 days, while the lunar night lasts 13 days.

Informative detailsThe moon we view almost daily is a natural satellite of the earth. It indicates that the moon follows a predictable route as it orbits the earth. Even while the moon revolves around the earth, the natural satellite is kept in orbit by the gravitational pull between the two bodies.


The Moon, our nearest cosmic neighbour, appears to be larger than the stars and the other planets revolving in the universe. All the planets and the stars appear to be relatively smaller in comparison to it because of their distance from the earth.

Different Types of the Moon Phases

There are eight moon phases, and they are as follows:

New Moon: When the moon is situated between the earth and the sun, it is said to be in its new phase. Since the moon’s dark side is toward the earth, it cannot be seen during this phase.


Waxing Crescent: A few days after the new moon, the moon enters its second phase, the waxing crescent. The moon moves toward the east during this phase. Occasionally, the rest of the moon is seen because of “earthshine,” a natural phenomenon where the earth radiates sunlight onto the moon.

First-Quarter: Depending on the location, the third phase allows observers to see either the lighted right or lighted left halves of the moon. The moon has accomplished the first quarter of the lunar phase.


Waxing Gibbous Moon: The fourth phase is where “growing shape” refers to the moon’s shape and “getting large” refers to its size.

Full Moon: The moon’s fifth phase is when the sun and moon are on opposite sides of the earth, it is called a full moon. The moon is referred to as a “supermoon” when it is at its nearest point to the planet earth and as a “micro-moon” when it is at its widest point from the Earth. 

Waning Gibbous Moon: The sixth phase of the moon is characterised by a decline in shape that lasts till the moon is halfway lighted.

Third-Quarter Moon: The moon has finished 3/4 of its current lunar phase and is in its seventh phase.

Waning Crescent Moon: This is the moon’s final or eighth phase, and it is also during this time that “earthshine” can be witnessed. When the sun and the moon arise at the same time, this phase will come to an end, and a new lunar cycle will begin.

Interesting Facts

  • The “far side” of the moon is referred to as the “dark side”.
  • The moon’s dark side is visible every month for 14 earth days.
  • China, Russia, and the US have all expedited to the moon’s far side.


Most people refer to the “dark side of the Moon” as an explanation for the far side of our planet’s natural satellite, the moon. It’s a misconception that if we can’t view the moon’s other side, it must be dark, which is false.

People in the past thought that the moon had a black side that was always there. Of course, we know that both the moon and the Earth orbit the sun. The “dark” side is only an optical illusion. The moon’s other side was visible to the Apollo astronauts, who also took advantage of the sunlight. It turns out that different areas of the moon receive sunlight at various times throughout each month, not just on a single side. 

We refer to the moon’s phases as appearing to alter in shape. It’s interesting to note that during a “New Moon,” or when the Sun and Moon coincide on the same side of the earth, the face visible to us is dark while the other side is brightly illuminated by the sun. Therefore, it IS a misconception to refer to the side that faces opposite us as the “dark side.”

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is it inaccurate to mention the “dark side” of the moon?

Ans. The moon’s “dark side” is frequently used as a reference to the lunar face that we cannot view from earth. Rather than using the dark side, scientists use the phrase “far side” of the moon. Due to the moon’s close synchronisation with our planet’s spin and orbit, one of its sides is always facing earth or is tidally locked.

The moon’s dark or “night” side continually shifts since it rotates on its axis and travels in tandem with the earth around the sun.

The “far side”, mistakenly termed as the “dark side” of the moon, where China recently made history by landing its Change 4 spacecraft, is what most people mean when they speak of the “dark side” of the moon.

2. Has anyone looked into the moon’s dark side?

Ans. On January 3, 2019, the Change 4 spacecraft from the China National Space Administration achieved a milestone by performing the first-ever soft landing on the moon’s far side and deploying the Yutu-2 lunar rover. The spacecraft had a lander with a low-frequency radio spectrum analyser and geological exploration equipment.

3. Why don’t we ever see the moon’s opposite side?

Ans. The moon faces the same direction as the earth because it is tidally locked. The side of the moon permanently turned away from us, or its dark side is the side we cannot view from earth.

The moon indeed rotates, but it does so at the same rate as the earth’s rotation. During the time the moon takes orbit of the earth, at the same time, it revolves around its axis. That implies that the same side is constantly facing us.

4. Do we glimpse the moon’s other side?

Ans. No, every 27.3 days, the moon spins on its axis and completes one planet’s orbit. It indicates that even though the moon rotates, one of its faces is always pointed in our direction. This phenomenon, called “synchronous rotation,” explains why humans can never see the far side of the Moon from Earth.

Dark side of the Moon


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