Year of the Moon

An hour-by-hour time lapse view of our satellite’s changing look.


It’s fitting that 2018 started off with a supermoon on New Year’s day, with another one—plus an eclipse—coming at the end of January. This promises to be a banner year for lunar exploration, and not just because of the renewed interest in sending astronauts back to the moon’s surface.

Robotic lunar exploration is about to heat up, too. India’s Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft is scheduled to launch in March—that nation’s first attempt at a landing mission, with a stationary lander and a rover designed to last two weeks (one lunar day) on the surface. China, which successfully completed a similar feat in 2013, plans to send a communications relay satellite to lunar orbit before the end of 2018, to support a later landing by Chang’e 4 on the far side.

Could this also be the year that commercial moon missions, with help from NASA, finally get off the ground? Moon Express has said it wants to start launching in 2018, with Astrobotic and other companies not far behind.

Regardless of how that turns out, the moon will be faithfully making its rounds up in the sky. Here’s a handy animation from NASA’s visualization team showing the changing face of the moon—with all its wobbles and lighting phases—throughout the coming year.