A ‘ridiculously detailed’ photo of the Moon uses more than 200,000 images

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(Photo: Andrew McCarthy and Connor Matherne)
It’s been over 50 years since humans set foot on the moon, but you don’t need to jump in a rocket to see our nearest neighbor up close. A pair of astrophotography enthusiasts have just released an incredibly detailed mosaic image of the moon. It took hundreds of thousands of exposures to achieve this level of detail, and now you can enjoy the fruits of their labor – all 174 megapixels.

Astrophotographers Andrew McCarthy and Connor Matherne hooked up on Reddit several years ago, and last November they started a project they call “The Hunt for Artemis.” This is a reference to the imminent launch of the Artemis 1 mission, the first Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. This same design will bring astronauts back to the lunar surface later this decade.

The final photo, available for purchase on McCarthy’s website, is a stacked mosaic made up of monochrome and color images. McCarthy has taken many images of the moon and its features, but this is the highest resolution image to date. During this time, Matherne mainly photographed deep space objects, so he had more experience in color astrophotography.

In Arizona, McCarthy took 200,000 images of the moon to capture every detail, and in Louisiana, Matherne took 500 color images to give the final image incredible vibrancy. It took the pair about nine months of tinkering to get the perfect stack. The colors in “The Hunt for Artemis” don’t quite match what your eye sees on the moon, but it’s not contrived. Saturation has been increased to demonstrate geological differences on the lunar surface. The reddish areas are rich in iron and feldspar, and the bluish areas have a higher titanium content.

McCarthy’s site offers prints of the image, as well as a full-resolution digital download that you can print yourself. It’s a great way to prepare for the start of a new era of human exploration in space. The first SLS rocket is expected to launch later this month. The Orion capsule mated to the nose will spend several weeks coasting around the moon before returning to Earth. This will demonstrate the safety and efficiency of the spacecraft, paving the way for the Artemis 2 crewed mission in a few years. Artemis 3 is currently scheduled for launch in 2025 and will feature a two-person lunar landing.

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Jack C. Nugent