Columnist Leonard David

Chinese Moon Lander Spots Pinwheel Galaxy from Lunar Surface (Photo)

 M101 Spiral Seen by Chang'e Moon Lander
Image taken by China’s Chang’e 3 Moon lander: M101 Spiral. (Image credit: NAOC & International Lunar Observatory Association; University of Hawaii Hilo; Canada France Hawaii Telescope.)

China's first lunar lander Chang'e 3 remains is still operation after more than a year on the moon, and has captured a photo of a distant galaxy as seen from the lunar surface.

According to the Lunar Enterprise Daily, the Chinese lander observered the Spiral Galaxy M101, also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy, on Dec. 2 using its  Lunar Ultraviolet Telescope (LUT). The galaxy is about 21 million light-years from Earth. The Chang'e 3 image will be "refined further" by the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC) in Beijing. 

Chang'e 3's astronomical observations from the moon have been done in collaboration with the International Lunar Observatory Association – an interglobal enterprise incorporated in Hawaii – and the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Lunar Astronomy Team on Hawaii Island. [See more photos from China's first moon landing]


China’s Chang’e 3 Moon lander, imaged by Yutu lunar rover. (Image credit: NAOC)

According to Walter Kiefer of the Lunar and Planetary Institute: "The Chang'e 3 image is not the first galaxy imaged from the moon. During the Apollo 16 mission in 1972, astronauts John Young and Charlie Duke operated the Far UV Camera/Spectrograph from the lunar surface. One of the astronomical targets that they imaged was the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is a satellite galaxy to our Milky Way Galaxy. According to the Apollo 16 Preliminary Science Report, the imagery of the Large Magellanic Cloud revealed evidence of active star formation regions."


The Chang'e 3 mission marked China's first robotic lunar landing in mid-December 2013. It later deployed Yutu moon rover, China's first rover.

Leonard David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. He is former director of research for the National Commission on Space and is co-author of Buzz Aldrin's 2013 book "Mission to Mars – My Vision for Space Exploration," published by National Geographic, with a new updated paperback version to be released this year in May. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+

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Leonard David
Space Insider Columnist

Leonard David is an award-winning space journalist who has been reporting on space activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as's Space Insider Columnist among his other projects, Leonard has authored numerous books on space exploration, Mars missions and more, with his latest being "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published in 2019 by National Geographic. He also wrote "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet" released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard  has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace America for the AIAA. He has received many awards, including the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. You can find out Leonard's latest project at his website and on Twitter.