An astonishing new photograph of the moon has gone viral, dazzling viewers around the world—but it was not taken by NASA.
Instead, it was the result of a two-year initiative in which two astrophotographers captured “the most ridiculously detailed” picture ever taken of Earth’s lunar neighbor.
On Saturday, the 174-megapixel photograph (download it!) that displays the moon’s colors, craters, and luminous aura in astonishing detail was made public for the first time on Reddit.
Andrew McCarthy, who is well-known for his breathtaking astrophotography skills, collaborated with Connor Matherne, who is a planetary scientist and fellow photographer that gained acclaim for his striking and vibrant photographs of galaxies and nebulae.
The collaboration was made possible through Reddit and Instagram.
McCarthy referred to their finished project as “the most ridiculously detailed moon image we could come up with” in an Instagram post he made about it.
Using technology known as “photo stitching,” they combined more than 200,000 photographs of the moon into one massive image.
It’s also a tribute to NASA’s Artemis I mission, which is an uncrewed flight test that, according to the space agency, “will provide a foundation for human deep exploration and demonstrate our commitment and capability to return humans to the moon and extend beyond.”
The stunning photograph was given the name “The Hunt for Artemis.”
On August 29, 2022, the launch of Artemis I is anticipated to take place between the hours of 8:30 and 10:30 a.m.
“In 9 days, a human-rated lunar rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida,” McCarthy wrote on Instagram over the weekend, “demonstrating our capability for manned lunar missions for the first time in 50 years.”
The pair of astrophotographers managed to capture significant color data highlighting the reds, grays, blues and browns that help make the moon so unique.
McCarthy stated on Reddit that the image would have been a “dreary gray” if Matherne’s capacity to gather this data hadn’t been available.
“The color in this image is real, but presented with increased saturation so it is easily visible to our eyes,” he wrote.
“The reddish tones demonstrate areas rich in iron and feldspar, while the bluish areas are spots where the regolith is rich in titanium. Oxidization from influence from Earth’s atmosphere makes the colors appear like they do.”
“Each tile is made up of thousands of photos,” he added.
“When he and I put our heads together we were able to make something a little off brand for both of us, which is cool,” McCarthy told NPR.
“The whole thing is assembled like a mosaic, and each tile is made up of thousands of photos.”
Prints of the photograph can be purchased on McCarthy’s website.
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