Thou silver deity of secret night,
Direct my footsteps through the woodland shade;
Thou conscious witness of unknown delight,
The Lover’s guardian, and the Muse’s aid!
By thy pale beams I solitary rove,
To thee my tender grief confide;
Serenely sweet you gild the silent grove,
My friend, my goddess, and my guide.
E’en thee, fair queen, from thy amazing height,
The charms of young Endymion drew;
Veil’d with the mantle of concealing night;
With all thy greatness and thy coldness too.
–Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, ‘Hymn to the Moon’
We are transfixed by these astonishing images of our beloved moon captured by Sacramento-based astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy.
McCarthy’s magnificent images are high-resolution composites created using a telescope and multiple cameras to shoot tens of thousands of photos, sometimes well over 100,000, capturing different aspects of the moon, earthshine, and the stars.
On Reddit McCarthy described his process for creating the above image:
This image was created using a combination of shots from 2 different cameras, one to capture earthshine and stars, and one to capture the detail on the lit side of the moon. The shots were then stacked and pieced together for editing. I took so many shots to average out the blurring caused by atmospheric turbulence, as well as to eliminate noise captured by the camera sensor… The moon was captured in “tiles”, so I’d point the camera at it and take a bunch of pictures of just one portion of it, and then reposition, and do it again. Just the lit side of the moon is 25 “tiles,” each tile the best 50% of 2000 images stacked. I’d stack each tile separately to average out the noise from the sensor, sharpen it to get rid of the blurring caused by the atmosphere, and then combined them in photoshop to create the final image.
Most recently, McCarthy extracted the color data from 150,000 photos of last month’s supermoon to create a glorious 64-megapixel color image revealing the mineral-rich surface of Earth’s singular satellite.
The color was already in that picture, hidden behind the glare of the moon’s albedo, and represents the mineral content of our moon. While my previous images showed you the detail you could see if your eyes were sharper, this one shows you what the moon could look like if our eyes and brain were much more sensitive to color. The blues denote high titanium content, and oranges represent low titanium content in the basalt.
McCarthy also created this animation to help illustrate how he revealed the moon’s mineral hues:
There’s so much to appreciate about McCarthy’s photos. They demonstrate how the moon is every bit as beautiful, inspiring, and beguiling in high resolution as she is from where we stand and gaze up at her outside, day or night.
If you enjoy these shots, be sure to follow Andrew McCarthy on Instagram where he uses IG stories to document his process for creating stunning lunar views such as these. He also sell prints of his photos on his website.
Photos used with the permission of Andrew McCarthy.