If something about this animation strikes you as unfamiliar, don't worry, you're not imagining things; though the Moon does rotate about its axis as it orbits Earth, you've never in your life seen it spin quite like this.

The Moon is tidally locked to Earth, forever hiding one of its faces from those of us kicking it planetside. Owing to a phenomenon known as libration, it's actually possible to spot as much as 59% of the Moon's surface. But the remaining 41% – the so-called "far side," was for many years a complete mystery.

But this video, created from images returned by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, offers us an entirely different view of the Moon – one that brings its enigmatic far-side into clear (and, contrary to its "dark-side" misnomer, clearly illuminated) view:



The above time-lapse video starts with the standard Earth view of the Moon. Quickly, though, Mare Orientale, a large crater with a dark center that is difficult to see from the Earth, rotates into view just below the equator. From an entire lunar month condensed into 24 seconds, the video clearly shows that the Earth side of the Moon contains an abundance of dark lunar maria, while the lunar far side is dominated by bright lunar highlands. Two new missions are scheduled to begin exploring the Moon within the year, the first of which is NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE). LADEE, which launched just over a week ago, is scheduled to begin orbiting the Moon in October and will explore the thin and unusual atmosphere of the Moon. In a few months, the Chinese Chang'e 3 is scheduled to launch, a mission that includes a soft lander that will dispatch a robotic rover.


Beautiful. Now if only we could get similar timelapses for some of our solar sytem's other moons. Do these exist? Maybe for some Saturnian satellites, made from Cassini images? GIF party, anyone?