The Yutu rover cruising on the surface of the moon's dark side, leaving two tracks behind it. Photo: Handout
The Yutu rover cruising on the surface of the moon's dark side, leaving two tracks behind it. Photo: Handout

China’s Chang’e-4 lunar probe has sent ultra-high definition and panoramic photos of the moon’s dark side, after its historic January 3 soft-landing on the side that is always oriented away from Earth.

China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) has made public a batch of selected photos, inducing a 360-degree panorama taken by a camera installed atop the lander.

The first panorama from the dark side of the moon. Photo: Handout
Images of the moon’s far side sent back by the Chang’e-4 probe. Photos: Handout

These images were sent back via the relay satellite Queqiao, which was operating around the second Lagrangian point of the earth-moon system, about 455,000 kilometers from earth, where it can see both celestial bodies.

Chinese astronomers have made a preliminary analysis of the terrain and landform surrounding the location of the probe and its Yutu rover, now near the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Chinese media revealed that the Yutu took a “nap” after solar radiation raised the temperature on the lunar surface to more than 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit) before it rebooted itself on Thursday when the dark side’s surface cooled after sunset.

The landing site is a smooth plain within the crater Von Kármán on the moon’s dark side. The landing coordinates are 45.47084 South, 177.60563 East. Photo: Handout

The Chinese probe also carries a Germany-made neutron and radiation detector and a Swedish-developed neutral atom detector and both have started operations. A lunar radioisotope heater system contributed by Russia now provides the vital power supply to the probe during the moon’s long, frigid nights.

Without an atmosphere to retain heat, temperatures fluctuate in moon’s daylight-to-nighttime transition. The moon’s surface can be as hot as 127 degrees Celsius while it’s being illuminated by solar light and -173 degrees Celsius at nights.

The Queqiao satellite is also equipped with a Dutch-made low frequency radio detector.

Read more: China outlines project to send taikonauts to the moon

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The Great Gig in the Sky: China on the dark side of the moon

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