The Chang’e-4 lander and its rover Yutu-2 are continuing their scientific endeavor on the far side of the Moon, keeping in touch with Earth via the Queqiao relay satellite. Given that direct communication with the far side of the Moon is not possible, the satellite is positioned in a specific orbit that allows it to communicate with our planet, the lander, and its industrious rover.
A particularly striking picture of the Earth-Moon system snapped by Queqiao has been shared on Twitter by space journalist Andrew Jones, who specializes in the Chinese Space Program. The image comes from a presentation by the Dongfanghong Satellite Company.
Chang’e-4 and Yutu-2 are only active during the lunar day, which lasts 14 Earth days. During the lunar night, the Queqiao satellite instead focuses on astronomical work. The satellite has a special instrument onboard: the Netherlands-China Low-Frequency Explorer (NCLE), a deep-space radio observatory that is looking at the signals from the time before stars overwhelmingly shone across the cosmos.
The name Queqiao translates to “Bridge of Magpies” and comes from a Chinese folk tale with a cosmic twist. The Zhinü (織女) Weaver Girl, symbolized by the Lyrae star Vega and Niulang (牛郎), and The Cowherd, symbolized by the Aquila's star Altair, are star-crossed lovers whose forbidden love has led them to be banished to the opposite side of the heavenly river, the Milky Way. But once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, a flock of magpies form a bridge to reunite the lovers for 24 hours.