How to photograph the moon

Perhaps you saw the latest “moon event” circulating your Facebook feed, headed out and came back with blurry, disappointing pictures. Or perhaps you’re reading this to plan ahead to capture what is expected to be a spectacular moon tonight. Whatever the case is, you want a photo of the moon—how do you get it?

Photographing the moon is tricky because there’s limited light, and a camera’s autofocus won’t work on a night sky either. Getting a great photo of the moon isn’t impossible though—here’s a simple set of instructions on how to photograph the moon for beginners.

What You Need

Any DSLR or mirrorless camera will work to capture the moon, and some super zoom cameras with manual modes can also work well. Besides the obvious (camera), you’ll need:

  • A good lens. A telephoto if you want to single out the moon and capture its details. A wider angle lens will get some of the scenery in too, but if you use a focal length shorter than 50 mm, the moon will look smaller than it does to the naked eye.
  • A tripod
  • A remote release (optional)
  • Patience

How to photograph the moonHow to Photograph the Moon: The Steps

Wait for the right night.

Since the moon has different phases, you’ll get a much better shot simply by waiting for the right night. You’ll want to pay attention to the moons phases. A full moon makes for a great image, but it’s also much brighter, which can make it trickier to get the shot. Of course, complete cloud cover makes shooting the moon impossible as well, so pay attention to the weather too.

The time of day matters when it comes to photographing the moon as well. The moon appears largest when it’s closest to the horizon, so shooting at moonrise or moonset is often the best. You can use an app like LightTrac to identify just when that is for your particular area and day. You can choose to capture the moon during the night, or even during the day once the moon has risen. Events like lunar eclipses and harvest moons are also great times to capture the moon.

Choose a scene and set up a tripod.

Unlike photographing the stars, light pollution doesn’t have as dramatic of an effect on moon photos. You can use a telephoto lens and shoot just the moon from almost anywhere, or scout out a good landscape and use a lens with a wider angle.

Once you’ve selected your location, set up your tripod. You’ll need a longer shutter speed, so a tripod is necessary for getting a sharp shot.

Set your exposure.

The full moon actually casts quite a bit of light. A bright moon on a black sky throws off the camera’s auto exposure system, so manual mode is a necessity to getting the shot right. The exact settings will depend on your shooting environment—for example, at dusk, you can use a faster shutter speed than at night.

While long exposures are usually great for night photography, there is one problem—the earth and moon are both rotating, so if you use a long shutter speed, you’ll lose some of the details in the moon from motion blur. Of course, the motion isn’t that fast so you will need to keep the shutter speed ideally under 30 seconds to get a clear photo.

Due to the brightness of the moon, you can often use a low ISO and an aperture of f11.

Shooting the moon with some scenery or other elements in the photo? Expose for the moon to keep those details. However, in many instances, this will leave the rest of the scene black. How do you get a well-detailed moon, without underexposing the rest of the scene? This is often achieved through bracketing—taking multiple photos at different exposures, then combining the images in post processing, like with a HDR image. Be sure to take at least two photos, one with the moon well-exposed, and one with the rest of the scene well-exposed. Thanks to that tripod, your shots will be from the same perspective, so combining them is easy.

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How to photograph the moon

Set your focus.

If you try to photograph the moon with autofocus, your camera will attempt to focus but be unable to lock focus on the moon. The moon is so bright and distant that autofocus usually doesn’t work that well, which is why it’s best to manually focus. Turn the lens barrel to infinity, then check your focus in the viewfinder and adjust from there. Nailing the focus may take a few tries, so you may want to practice on a plain moon if you’re hoping to photograph a special lunar event. Once you find that sweet spot, mark it with a sticker or gaffers tape to remember the next time you want to photograph the moon.

Shoot!

You’re finally ready to actually take the photo, however don’t reach for the shutter release just yet. Pressing the button can actually introduce camera shake, even when mounted on a tripod, therefore you will need to use a remote release. If you do not have a remote, using the self-timer will function the same way, triggering the photo without your hand on the camera, so there’s no additional camera shake.

Check your shot, and adjust.

It’s difficult, especially for beginners, to get a moon shot right on the first try. Thankfully, you have a pretty big window of opportunity time-wise, so be sure to check your shot and make any necessary adjustments. Don’t see the details of those craters? Your exposure may be too bright and is overexposing the details of the moon. Your shutter speed could also be too long, or your focus not quite right. Use a critical eye checking that viewfinder, then adjust and reshoot.

Edit.

You can get even more details out of your photo of the moon with a few simple adjustments in post processing. If you shot a RAW photo, adjustments are even easier. Use the contrast slider to bring out a bit more of those details. Applying some sharpening or using the unsharp mask filter often helps too. If you shot a bracketed set of photos to properly expose the foreground, you’ll of course need to merge the photos together at this point.

Today’s digital cameras can capture great details even on something as far away as the moon. Shooting the moon can be a bit tricky however, but with the right setup and camera settings, the moon can be a great subject to capture.

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How to photograph the moon

How to photograph the moonWide and close-up views of a moon-forming disc as seen with ALMA/ ALMA (ESO_NAOJ_NRAO)_Benisty et al.

Using the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimeter Array), astronomers have unambiguously detected the presence of a disc around a planet outside our Solar System for the first time. The observations will shed new light on how moons and planets form in young stellar systems.

“Our work presents a clear detection of a disc in which satellites could be forming,” says Myriam Benisty, a researcher at the University of Grenoble, France, and at the University of Chile, who led the new research published today in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. “Our ALMA observations were obtained at such exquisite resolution that we could clearly identify that the disc is associated with the planet and we are able to constrain its size for the first time,” she adds.

The disc in question, called a circumplanetary disc, surrounds the exoplanet PDS 70c, one of two giant, Jupiter-like planets orbiting a star nearly 400 light-years away. Astronomers had found hints of a “moon-forming” disc around this exoplanet before but, since they could not clearly tell the disc apart from its surrounding environment, they could not confirm its detection—until now.

In addition, with the help of ALMA, Benisty and her team found that the disc has about the same diameter as the distance from our Sun to the Earth and enough mass to form up to three satellites the size of the Moon.

But the results are not only key to finding out how moons arise. “These new observations are also extremely important to prove theories of planet formation that could not be tested until now,” says Jaehan Bae, a researcher from the Earth and Planets Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science, and author on the study.

Planets form in dusty discs around young stars, carving out cavities as they gobble up material from this circumstellar disc to grow. In this process, a planet can acquire its own circumplanetary disc, which contributes to the growth of the planet by regulating the amount of material falling onto it. At the same time, the gas and dust in the circumplanetary disc can come together into progressively larger bodies through multiple collisions, ultimately leading to the birth of moons.

How to photograph the moonWidefield image of the sky around PDS 70/ESO Digitized Sky Survey 2; Davide De Martin

But astronomers do not yet fully understand the details of these processes. “In short, it is still unclear when, where, and how planets and moons form,” explains Stefano Facchini, a Research Fellow involved in the research at the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which is an ALMA partner.

“More than 4000 exoplanets have been found until now, but all of them were detected in mature systems. PDS 70b and PDS 70c, which form a system reminiscent of the Jupiter-Saturn pair, are the only two exoplanets detected so far that are still in the process of being formed,” explains Miriam Keppler, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and one of the co-authors of the study.

How to photograph the moonThe dwarf star PDS 70 in the constellation Centaurus/ESO, IAU and Sky & Telescope

“This system therefore offers us a unique opportunity to observe and study the processes of planet and satellite formation,” Facchini adds.

PDS 70b and PDS 70c, the two planets making up the system, were first discovered using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in 2018 and 2019 respectively, and their unique nature means they have been observed with other telescopes and instruments many times since.

The latest high resolution ALMA observations have now allowed astronomers to gain further insights into the system. In addition to confirming the detection of the circumplanetary disc around PDS 70c and studying its size and mass, they found that PDS 70b does not show clear evidence of such a disc, indicating that it was starved of dust material from its birth environment by PDS 70c.

An even deeper understanding of the planetary system will be achieved with ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), currently under construction on Cerro Armazones in the Chilean Atacama desert. “The ELT will be key for this research since, with its much higher resolution, we will be able to map the system in great detail,” says co-author Richard Teague, a researcher at the Center for Astrophysics partnership between Harvard & Smithsonian.

In particular, by using the ELT’s Mid-infrared ELT Imager and Spectrograph (METIS), the team will be able to look at the gas motions surrounding PDS 70c to get a full 3D picture of the system.

The object is likely a boulder worn down by space weather

How to photograph the moon

China’s Yutu 2 rover photographed this object on the moon. The rover is headed to investigate the object. (Image: Our Space/CNSA)

(CNSA)

Mystery surrounds an object photographed on the moon by China's lunar rover last month. However, there is a likely explanation for the thing dubbed a "moon hut" by Chinese media.

The Yutu 2 rover landed with China's Chang'e 4 lander on the moon's far side in January 2019. In association with the space program, the Chinese media outlet Our Space has documented the rover's journey and recently shared a photo taken by Yutu 2 in November showing a tiny square-like object in the distance.

Our Space calls the object a "mysterious hut" or "house" and estimates it's about 80 meters in the distance. Scientists were intrigued by the thing and sent Yutu 2 to check it out.

There is a logical explanation for the cube-like object China's moon rover photographed.

Dr. Phil Metzger, a planetary scientist at the University of Central Florida, said the "moon hut" is likely a boulder worn down by space weather.

Metzger is an expert in lunar and Martian soil. His research focuses on how robotic missions and rockets interact with lunar soil. He knows a lot about the rocks and regolith, or dirt on the moon.

As for the square-like shape, Metzger believes this is due to image processing.

"If you look at the original picture before they enhanced it, you'll notice in the upper left and upper right it looks like a 45-degree slope on the corners of the object," Metzger said.

Scientists use imaging software that can fill in values for missing pixels. Metzger said that image processing and the low sun angle could make things appear more cubic than they really are.

The most logical explanation is that Yutu 2 will find a boulder when it arrives in two to three months.

How to photograph the moon

On Dec. 13, 1972, scientist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt is photographed standing next to a huge, split lunar boulder during the third Apollo 17 extravehicular activity (EVA) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. The two frames were photographed by NASA astronaut Eugene Cernan.

(NASA)

"There are big boulders on the moon. In the Apollo program, we have pictures of astronauts standing next to them on the moon," Metzger points out.

However, giant boulders typically don't last too long on the moon because there is not a significant atmosphere there. Anything on the lunar surface is getting hammered by micrometeoroids and space weather.

Metzger said boulders are primarily created on the moon when an asteroid crashes, creating a crater and tossing up bedrock.

"When rocks and boulders sit on the moon, they get pummeled by dust-sized micrometeoroids over a period of 100,000 years," Metzger said.

If there is a large boulder, it's likely to be found near a relatively young crater.

An image provided by Our Space, a science website affiliated with China National Space Administration, and, according to the website, was captured by Chinese rover Yutu-2 on the far side of the moon, shows a cube-like object in this image provided to Reuters December 8, 2021. Our Space/Handout via REUTERS

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BEIJING, Dec 8 (Reuters) – A photograph of a cube-like object captured by a Chinese rover on the far side of the moon has fanned speculation over what it could be and inspired a host of memes by Chinese internet users.

The Yutu-2 caught an image of what seems like a large cubic object on the horizon about 80 metres (87 yards) from its location, said Our Space, a Chinese government science website, citing the rover's last log on Dec. 3.

Under the hashtag "Yutu's latest discovery", a series of internet memes showed the rover rolling over the lunar plain towards a pair of obelisks, a tall monolith, and even a giant hammer and sickle – the symbol of the Communist Party.

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"It's space junk left behind by the U.S.," one Chinese internet user wrote in a social media post.

"Get a bit closer, and you'd see it's a nucleic acid test site for COVID-19," another quipped.

"It's the home of aliens!" a third said in mock horror.

Others suggested a more mundane possibility – it's just a boulder.

The solar-powered Yutu, or "Jade Rabbit" in Chinese, will cover the distance of 80 metres in two to three lunar days, according to Our Space, or two to three Earth months.

The robotic rover has been operating in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin since its deployment in January 2019.

The mission was a historic first, with no other nation having landed on the far side of the moon until then.

With the moon tidally locked to Earth – rotating at the same speed as it orbits our planet – most of its "dark side" is never visible to those on Earth.

In the 1950s, the Cold War sparked a race to visit Earth’s moon with flybys, robots, and crewed missions. Here’s what we discovered—and what’s next.

For as long as humans have gazed skyward, the moon has been a focus of fascination. We could always see our cosmic partner’s mottled, cratered face by eye. Later, telescopes sharpened our views of its bumps, ridges, and relict lava seas. Finally, in the mid-20th century, humans visited Earth’s moon and saw its surface up close.

Since then, a volley of spacecraft have studied our nearest celestial neighbor, swooping low over its dusty plains and surveying its curious far side. Now, after six decades of exploration, we are once again aiming to send humans to the lunar surface.

Early forays into space

The earliest forays into lunar exploration were a product of the ongoing Cold War, when the U.S. and Soviet Union sent uncrewed spacecraft to orbit and land on the moon.

The Soviets scored an early victory in January 1959, when Luna 1, a small Soviet sphere bristling with antennas, became the first spacecraft to escape Earth’s gravity and ultimately fly within about 4,000 miles of the moon’s surface. (Read more about early spaceflight.)

Later in 1959, Luna 2 became the first spacecraft to make contact with the moon’s surface when it crashed in the Mare Imbrium basin near the Aristides, Archimedes, and Autolycus craters. That same year, a third Luna mission captured the first, blurry images of the far side of the moon—where the rugged highland terrain is markedly different from the smoother basins on the side closest to Earth.

Then, the U.S. got in the game with nine NASA Ranger spacecraft that launched between 1961 and 1965, and gave scientists the first close-up views of the moon’s surface. The Ranger missions were daring one-offs, with spacecraft engineered to streak toward the moon and capture as many images as possible before crashing onto its surface. By 1965, images from all the Ranger missions, particularly Ranger 9, had revealed greater detail about the moon’s rough terrain and the potential challenges of finding a smooth landing site for humans.

In 1966, the Soviet spacecraft Luna 9 became the first vehicle to land safely on the lunar surface. Stocked with scientific and communications equipment, the small spacecraft photographed a ground-level lunar panorama. Later that year, Luna 10 launched, becoming the first spacecraft to successfully orbit the moon.

NASA also landed a spacecraft on the moon’s surface that year with the first of its Surveyor space probes, which carried cameras to explore the moon’s surface and soil samplers to analyze lunar rock and dirt. Over the two years that followed, NASA launched five Lunar Orbiter missions that were designed to circle the moon and chart its surface in preparation for the ultimate goal: landing astronauts on the surface. These orbiters photographed about 99 percent of the moon’s surface, revealing potential landing sites and paving the way for a giant leap forward in space exploration.(See a map of all lunar landings.)

Humans on the moon

At the time, NASA was racing to fulfill a presidential promise: In 1961, President John F. Kennedy committed the United States to landing a person on the moon before the decade was complete. The Apollo program, by far the most expensive spaceflight endeavor in history, kicked off that year, and by the time it ended in 1972, nine missions and 24 astronauts had orbited or landed on the moon.

Perhaps the most famous of those, Apollo 11, marked the first time humans had stepped on another world.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin touched down in the Sea of Tranquility in the lunar lander Eagle, while astronaut Michael Collins orbited the moon in the command module Columbia. Armstrong, who pressed the first bootprints into the moon’s surface, famously said, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” The pair stayed on the moon’s surface for 21 hours and 36 minutes before rendezvousing with Collins and heading back to Earth. (Exploring the legacy of Apollo 11 at the dawn of a new era of space travel.)

Each mission after Apollo 11 set new milestones in space travel and lunar exploration. Four months after the first humans reached the moon, Apollo 12 touched down, achieving a much more precise landing on the moon.

Apollo 13 narrowly avoided a near-disaster when on-board oxygen tanks exploded in April 1970, forcing the crew to abort a planned moon landing. All three survived.

During the third lunar landing, in January 1971, Apollo 14, commander Alan Shepard set a new record for the farthest distance traveled on the moon: 9,000 feet. He even lobbed a few golf balls into a nearby crater with a makeshift 6-iron.

Apollo 15, launched in July 1971, was the first of three missions capable of a longer stay on the moon. In the course of three days spent on the lunar surface, achievements included collecting hundreds of pounds of lunar samples and traveling more than 17 miles in the first piloted moon buggy. (The Soviet Union had sent a remotely controlled rover to the moon, Lunokhod 1, in 1970.)

Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 in 1972 were the two most recent crewed missions to the moon, and Russia’s Luna-24 crewless spacecraft in 1976 was the last to land until the following century. Samples collected during these lunar explorations produced huge amounts of knowledge about the geology and formation of the Earth’s moon. (See a timeline of the space race and its modern-day version in private spaceflight.)

After the dramatic accomplishments of the 1960s and 1970s, the major space agencies turned their attention elsewhere for several decades. So far, only 12 humans—all Americans and all men—have set foot on the moon.

Moon curiosity builds again

It wasn’t until 1994 that the moon came back into focus for the United States, with a joint mission between NASA and the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization. The Clementine spacecraft mapped the moon’s surface in wavelengths other than visible light, from ultraviolet to infrared. Hiding in the more than 1.8 million digital photos it captured were hints of ice in some of the moon’s craters.

Moon, or Luna in Latin, is planet Earth’s one and only natural satellite and the brightest object in the night sky. With a diameter of 2,159.2 miles (or 3,474 km), it is roughly the size of the African continent and is the largest lunar body relative to the size of the object it orbits around. A cold, dry sphere with a surface covered in craters, rocks and dust called regolith.

Creation

The moon is estimated to have formed nearly 4.5 billion years ago, just a hundred million years after the planets of our solar system formed. There are numerous theories that explain how the moon was formed but the Giant Impact Hypothesis is by far the most widely accepted scientific explanation.

Giant Impact Hypothesis

According to the Giant Impact Hypothesis, the Moon was formed from the resulting dust and debris from a giant impact between the Earth and another celestial body the size or Mars, known as Theia. The collision created a large amount of dust and fragments that spread out into space and got caught by the Earth’s gravitational pull and ended up in an orbit around the Earth. Over 90 million years the dust and fragments collided and accumulated to a bigger and bigger celestial body that eventually became the Moon as we know it.

Co-formation theory

The Co-formation theory suggests that Moon was formed at the same time as Earth. According to this theory, gravity caused material in the early solar system to draw together at the same time when the gravity drew particles together to form earth. This theory lost its favor quite recently when the scientists discovered that Earth and Moon does not have similar density, proposing that they could not have possibly been created at the same time.

It was only in 1959 that humanity was first able to photograph the moon’s far side

Capture theory

Another popular theory, that has lost its credibility due to recent scientific research, is known as Capture theory. The theory suggests that it was Earth’s own gravity that snagged a passing body and created the Moon. This is the case with many other moons in our Solar system and according to this theory; moon’s rocky body formed somewhere else in the solar system and was drawn to Earth’s orbit by its gravity. This theory loses its footing because celestial bodies pulled like this don’t line up with the ecliptic path of their parent body which Moon does.

Surface

The surface of Moon is different from Earth’s surface due to different atmosphere, plate tectonics and water. Nevertheless, there is no lack of beautiful mountain ranges on the surface of Moon caused by meteoroids striking its surface. The absence of water on its surface, and therefore no erosion, has helped its terrain to retain its ancient geological features. Since there are no plate tectonics, there are no volcanic eruptions or earthquakes – factors that contributed heavily to formation of much of Earth’s terrain as we see it today.

Atmosphere

The moon was long believed not to have any atmosphere but recent studies have shown that the moon has a so called exosphere which is the uppermost layer of an atmosphere, the layer that thins out and merges with the emptiness of space. The Moons exosphere weighs in at only about 55,000 pounds (or 10 tons) consists consist mostly of hydrogen and small amounts of helium and neon gasses. There is no air which means there is no weather as we know it here on the Earth.

Orbit

The moon has a nearly circular orbit around Earth’s center of mass and has what is called a bound rotation with earth. This means that the moon rotates exactly one revolution around its own axis for each revolution around the Earth. The bound rotation means that the moon always has the same side facing the Earth and a back side that we are not able to observe from Earth.

It was only in 1959 that humanity was first able to photograph the moon’s far side. It was done by the Soviet Luna 3 probe and in 1968 the Apollo 8 crew became the first humans who observed the “dark side of the moon” without photo sets.

The orbital period for the Moon is 27.322 days whereas Earth’s orbital period is roughly 365 days long. As it orbits around Earth, the moon also changes its position with respect to the sun which causes the moon phases.

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With just your telescope and DSLR camera, you can capture some amazing views of our bright neighbor planets. You don’t even need a tracking mount!

When I decided to get into astrophotography, Jupiter was at the top of my list of targets. Jupiter was very prominent in the sky all winter. Whenever the clouds cleared off enough to setup the telescope, Jupiter is almost always my first target, particularly with the camera. Now, with Jupiter setting to the west, we have Saturn taking it’s place from the east. Here are some tips to help you capture these brilliant gas giants.

Probably the best method for doing planetary imaging is recording video of the planet through the telescope, then using a program like Registax to align and combine the best frames of the video into a static image. Celestron, Orion, and others sell specific planetary imaging cameras for this such as the Orion StarShoot 5 MP Solar System Color Camera.

Frankly though, that’s a lot of work with specialized equipment and software. You can get really impressive results, but it takes an investment not only in equipment, but most importantly in time. Mind you, I’ll almost certainly find myself doing that process at some point, but for now, I prefer a more general purpose and simple approach.

Fast Exposure Planetary Imaging

How to photograph the moon

Jupiter and Saturn are bright planets – they have a visual magnitude between +1.5 to -3. What this means is you don’t need to take a long exposure to capture their detail. In fact, a long exposure will just wash out all the detail. This means you don’t need a computerized tracking mount. The exposures are short enough that you can point your telescope manually and get an acceptable image.

For Jupiter, you only need an exposure of about 1/20th of a second to capture the cloud bands. If you want to capture the jovian moons, about a 1 second exposure should do the trick. Note that this longer exposure will get you the moons, but wash out the detail of the planet – I’ll talk about some relatively simple editing to deal with this in a minute. For now, just realize that you need two different exposures to capture both the planet and moons.

Turning to Saturn, we have a slightly dimmer but equally magnificent target with the rings. Saturn is currently at opposition, which means the best and brightest viewing opportunities of the year. Even so, it is still a bit dimmer than Jupiter, which means a slightly longer exposure is called for. I found that about 1/5th of a second works well in my setup.

  • Lens: Prime Focus to the 6″ SCT (1500mm focal length) with a 2.5x Barlow
  • Camera Mode: Manual
  • Focusing: Manual using Live View
  • White Balance: Daylight
  • ISO: 800
  • Quality: Highest Quality JPEG (optionally capture in RAW)
  • Shutter Mode: Continuous Shooting (A remote shutter release is highly recommended.)
  • Exposure Times:
    • Jupiter: 1/20th sec
    • Jupiter’s Moons: 1 sec
    • Saturn: 1/5th sec

    Note that the camera settings listed are for my particular setup with a 6″ SCT and Canon T3i camera. If you are fortunate to have a larger aperture telescope, you will be able to take even shorter exposures and capture the detail. If you have a smaller aperture scope, you may need to extend the exposure times a bit.

    Focusing can often be a challenge with astrophotography. A camera with Live View makes this easier, particularly with the bright planets. Getting the planet centered and zooming in on the display, you can adjust the focus to where you see the most definition. In the case of Jupiter, look for clear cloud bands. For Saturn, look for well defined rings. If the moon is up, it also makes a great object for adjusting the focus.

    Air turbulence is a critical factor with planetary imaging in particular. If you have a camera with Live View that allows you to zoom in, you will be able to see the air turbulence and the distortion it causes on the image of the planet. The only real solution for this is clear, calm air. You will however notice that from moment to moment, the image may appear better or worse. One of the advantages of video imaging discussed earlier is that the software can filter out individual frames of video where the image is particularly distorted due to the air turbulence. When you are doing single exposure planetary imaging, you want to wait for the clear air breaks, and snap off your images during those moments.

    DSLR Live Viewing

    I’ve been constantly surprised at the little things I’ve learned quite by chance. In this case, it’s just how cool using a DSLR can be not just for imaging, but for observing Jupiter and Saturn without squinting through an eyepiece.This doesn’t work for dim objects, but I find it extremely enjoyable for planetary and lunar observing.

    How to photograph the moon

    Combining The Best

    You may be perfectly happy with a few good shots straight off the camera. If you want to go a little bit further with it, you can take a few of the best images and do a little sharpening and combining in Photoshop or a similar layered image editor. Running a basic sharpening filter on each layer can also help you achieve a cleaner image.

    You can stack images just by starting with a base layer, and for each successive layer, reduce the opacity by between 25-50% of the opacity of the layer below it. For example:

    • Layer 4: 25% opacity
    • Layer 3: 40% opacity
    • Layer 2: 60% opacity
    • Layer 1: 100% (background layer)

    Basic layer stacking is also a way to get a combined image of Jupiter and the Jovian moons by taking the shorter exposure images of Jupiter and the longer exposures with the moons and combining them. You can repeat the above stacking method twice, once for the longer exposures with the moons, and a second time with the shorter exposures of Jupiter showing the cloud bands. Once you have these two stacks, you can overlay the stack with the details of Jupiter into the image with the moons.

    How to photograph the moon

    Not sure what other gear or adapters you need? Have a look at My Astrophotography Gear.

    How to photograph the moon

    Spend the next month getting to know the Moon.

    Set aside some time each day to look at the Moon. Record your observations in the log provided on the back of this page. Once you have completed your observations for the whole month, answer the questions below.

    1. Did the Moon look the same each day? If not, describe how it changed throughout the month.

    2. Did you see the Moon at the same time each day throughout the month? Was there a pattern to the time when you were able – or not able – to observe it? If so, describe the pattern.

    3. Did anything ever prevent you from being able to see the Moon? If so, what? Could you figure out what the Moon would have looked like if you could have seen it? If so, how?

    4. What do you think will happen to the Moon’s shape in the sky during the next week?

    5. Look up information on the phases of the Moon. Indicate in your Moon Observation Log (on the back of this page) where you think the Moon most closely matched each of the following phases: Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Third Quarter, Waning Crescent, and New Moon.

    6. What questions do you have about the Moon? Look up information about the Moon that interests you, and share what you learn with your friends and family.

    Some places you can find information about the Moon and its connection to planetary science and exploration are:

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    How to photograph the moon

    Established 1974

    Moonphoto is a photo lab that makes higher quality pictures from both film and digital sources. We make great looking award winning giclee prints on archival papers and canvas to 40 x 60 inches. Digital services include scanning, retouching, restorations, and file adjusting. We cater to pro photographers, artists, & other professionals, and the general public.

    We like film and do whole roll scanning and small proof prints from films. We offer traditional optical prints on archivally processed fiber papers. One of our specialties is the scanning and restoration of old photographs and old negatives. We like to work with artists and pro’s and advanced amateur photographers. We print several artist’s portfolios and photographic exhibitions/shows per year.

    Meet Our Crew

    Nestled in between Seattle’s Phinny Rdige and Ballard Neighborhood, Moonphoto is a professional photography lab that makes high quality photographs from digital files, film, and old photos. While photography has changed dramatically over the past few years, and most labs have closed, we have kept up with the changes and continue our mission to make good photographs better, and better photographs great. We love a good photograph in any form, be it film or digital, and strive to keep the look and feel of traditional photographs whatever the source.

    We still offer film processing and accept most types. We make prints from wallet size to 40×72 inches, on traditional photo papers and giclée (high quality archival inkjet) papers. Treasured old photos are our specialty. Regardless of whether your old prints, negatives, artwork, or slides are damaged, we can scan them at high resolution. Then, with our twenty plus years of experience with digital photography, we utilize Adobe Photoshop and Camera Raw software to make fine-tuned adjustments and mend any damage to your treasured old photos. We take pride in making your digital shots the best they can be.

    How to photograph the moon

    During the Apollo missions, the Lunar Orbiter snapped several photos of the area around Archimedes crater, including this one, which was subsequently published in National Geographic. Lunar conspiracy theorists quickly zeroed in on the bottle-shape object toward the bottom of the image, which they said appears to be a platform of some kind. Based on the scale of the photo, the so-called “Archimedes platform” measures roughly 5 miles long and 1 mile wide. What is it?

    Close-up of the ‘platform’

    This NASA image of Archimede’s “platform” scanned at a somewhat higher resolution reveals it is just the planar face of a ridge with a fairly steep slope. The shape of the object and the surrounding craters prove this photograph shows the same part of the lunar surface as the photo in the previous slide. But for some reason, lunar conspiracy theorists aren’t quite as interested in this picture of the “platform,” despite its superior lighting.

    Shard

    NASA conspiracy theorist Richard Hoagland claims this photograph, taken by the Lunar Orbiter in February 1967, shows a mile-high spire rising from the lunar surface in the distance. Hoagland has dubbed it the “Shard,” and argues that there is no plausible geological explanation for it, so it must be artificially made.

    Close-up of “the Shard”

    The star-like object in the image, like others in the zoomed-out image in the previous slide, is the Lunar Orbiter camera’s registration mark, according to Hoagland. The irregularly shaped tower below it is the so-called shard.

    Original NASA image of “the Shard”

    This original NASA image, taken by Lunar Orbiter 3, shows Bruce crater in the foreground and the Sinus Medii Mare plain in the background (the camera looks west). This appears to be the photograph that Hoagland manipulated with image processing software to bring about the appearance of his “Shard.” His manipulation – a combination of contrast adjustment, smoothing, and other alterations – appears to have turned a tiny spot of light near the horizon of the moon (perhaps light from a distant star) into a blurry image artifact – the Shard. See the next slide for a close-up on the area of interest.

    Close-up of original image

    Digital image processing introduces processing artifacts, not evidence of life on the moon.

    Bright light?

    This photograph, taken during the Apollo 15 moonwalk in 1971, appears to show a brightly lit object hovering above the astronaut David Scott, leading many to believe that something fishy must have been going on during the Apollo moon landings. However, experts say this is just a lens flare, as glare toward the top of the frame shows the sun is not far above.

    This calendar is a look into the past daily Moon Phases of August 2020. This month started on Saturday, August 1 st with a phase that was illuminated. Explore this August Moon Phase Calendar by clicking on each day to see detailed information on that days phase. Also see more information about the Full Moon and New Moon in August 2020 including local viewing times.

    Click on day to see details
    Phase Names
    Illumination %
    Major Phases

    Understanding Moon Phases

    Let’s start with some interesting facts. It takes the Moon 29.53 days to orbit completely around the Earth in a full lunar cycle. During this time, the Moon will go through each phase. Since the Moon’s orbital journey takes a little less than a full month, when you click on future dates you’ll notice that–depending on the exact number of days in that month–the Full Moon occurs a day or two earlier each month.

    It’s the Moon’s journey as it orbits around Earth that creates the predictable dance between light and shadow. And while the changes may seem slow, on any given day the amount of Moon illuminated by the Sun can vary by as much as 10-percent. The illustration above shows the range of illumination for today – December 28, 2021 . The illustration is set to your computer’s clock and therefore gives you an accurate reading for your own particular time zone.

    The four main Moon phases in order are the New Moon, First Quarter Moon, Full Moon and Last Quarter Moon. These phases occur at very specific times and are measured by both the Moon’s luminosity and how far along the Moon is in its orbit around Earth.

    The New Moon Phase occurs when the Moon is completely dark with zero-percent luminosity, while the Full Moon Phase is completely bright with 100-percent luminosity. The First and Last Quarter phases happen when the Moon is exactly half illuminated, with 50-percent luminosity. When people say “today is a Full Moon” it’s important to remember that doesn’t mean the Moon is full all day long, only that the Full Moon Phase occurs on this day. In reality, the exact moment of the Full Moon can be timed to the second. To learn more about the exact time of the Full Moon and the current Full Moon info, check out these Current Full Moon times.

    The remaining four Moon phases occur at halfway points between the main phases. Unlike the main phases, these minor phases don’t happen at a specific time or luminosity, rather they describe the Moon’s phase for the entire time period between each main phase. These interim phases are Waxing Crescent Moon, Waxing Gibbous Moon, Waning Gibbous Moon and Waning Crescent Moon. The illustration below shows all eight main and minor Moon phases and where they occur in the lunar cycle.

    Moon Phases In History

    Imagine a Neanderthal peering out of his cave some dark summer night as the Full Moon rises above the horizon. Nothing on Earth was quite like this strange brilliant object arcing through the night sky. What did he think it was? It’s not hard to imagine how the Moon became the source of many religions, myths and legends throughout the ages.

    The Greeks were among the first to take a scientific look at the Moon and her phases. Around 500 BC Greek philosopher and astronomer Pythagoras carefully observed the narrow boundary line—the terminator—between the dark and light hemispheres of the Moon. Based on how the terminator curved across the surface of the Moon, he correctly surmised the Moon must be a sphere.

    A few centuries later, around 350 BC, Aristotle took Pythagoras observations even further. By observing the shadow of the Earth across the face of the Moon during a lunar eclipse, Aristotle reckoned that the Earth was also a sphere. He reasoned, incorrectly however, that the Earth was fixed in space and that the Moon, Sun and Stars revolved around it. He also believed the Moon was a translucent sphere that traveled in a perfect orbit around Earth.

    It wasn’t until the 16th century that our understanding of the Solar System evolved. In the early 1500s Astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus developed a model of the Solar System where Earth and the other planets orbited around the Sun, and the Moon orbited around Earth. One hundred years later Italian Astronomer Galileo used one of the first telescopes to observe the terminator and deduced from the uneven shadows of the Waning Crescent Phase that the Moon’s surface was pocked with craters and valleys and ridged with mountains.

    These observations were revolutionary. Copernicus and Galileo upended the long-held Aristotelian view of the heavens as a place where Earth was the center of the Universe and the Moon was a smooth, polished orb. Telescopes and new minds helped scientist understand that the Earth and planets orbited around the Sun and the Moon was a battered and cratered satellite held in our own orbit.

    • Today’s Moon Phase
    • Moon Phase Calendar
    • December Full Moon
    • Full Moon Calendar
    • Born on a Full Moon?

    When there is a full moon coming up, especially a big, colorful blood moon or harvest moon, there’s nothing better than being able to take clear pictures of it. Taking pictures of the moon, though, can prove to be difficult, and much of the time you may end up with pictures that are nothing like what you see with your naked eye.

    You definitely can get good pictures of the moon through some trial and error, and the right photography techniques. But to get the best moon shots, take these camera settings for moon shots into account and remove the matter of chance. Here are the best camera settings to use when photographing the moon.

    How to photograph the moon

    ISO

    Set your camera ISO to 100. This will allow your camera to clearly pick up the bright light and details of the moon, as well as darkening the night sky. Since the moon is your only focus, you don’t need to worry about being able to see other parts of the scenery. If you do want to pick up more scenery, check the settings below for capturing the foreground.

    How to photograph the moon

    Aperture

    To get the clearest pictures, try to take your photos at a narrower aperture f/11. This will ensure that you get the widest shot you can and capture all the detail of the moon with sharpness. You can go slightly higher than this if you need to, if your lens takes clearer pictures at a certain aperture. It can be different for every lens.

    How to photograph the moon

    Shutter Speed

    To get a good exposure of the moon’s light and details, you should set your shutter speed at around 1/100 to 1/125. This will work with what you have set your ISO and aperture to in order to maximize the detail you can see in the moon.

    How to photograph the moon

    Focus

    Keep your camera in manual focus. This will make it easy for you to control how the camera focuses. If you use an automatic focus, it may make it more difficult to get clear photos and you’ll lose a lot of control over the photo. Since the moon is unmoving, you won’t have to worry about needing fast focus shifts.

    White Balance

    This setting is more or less up to you, depending on what kind of colors you want to incorporate into your photo. Especially if you shoot in RAW as is recommended below, your white balance won’t matter as much.

    Using the Daylight White Balance preset, though, is probably your best go-to for photographing the moon. Or, experiment with the auto white balance setting enabled.

    How to photograph the moon

    Use a Long Lens

    An important part of taking great moon photos is to have a lens that can capture something so far away with detail. You can still take moon photos with short lenses, but the result will be a much smaller moon with more of the surrounding scenery in the shot.

    If you want the moon to fill up the photo and show all its detail, using a long lens with a focal length of 200mm or longer is better. The speed of the lens doesn’t matter as much if you want to use the lens for only moon shots.

    Shoot in Raw

    If you plan to color balance your moon photo after taking it, it’s recommended to shoot your photos in the RAW format. This will allow for much simpler color balancing and correcting. It’s important to do this with moon photos as you can fix things like lighting and color, which are some of the most important parts of a good moon picture.

    How to photograph the moon

    These photos will take up more memory, as they are not compressed like JPEGs, so make sure to bring multiple memory cards if you can.

    Other Tips

    Besides the camera settings for moon photography, there are also some other things you should keep in mind in order to get the best photos possible.

    Wait for the Moon to Rise

    The moon shines at its brightest when it’s at the peak of its nightly path. This usually occurs around midnight, and then the moon will set at around 6 am. When the moon is at its highest point at midnight, you should be able to photograph it in this position for about an hour. Then it will be on its decline.

    Also, keep in mind that the phase of the moon will determine how brightly it shines. A full moon will be much brighter at its peak than in its crescent phase.

    Get There Early

    Although it may not seem like it at first, it might take you a minute to get entirely set up to properly photograph the moon. You’ll have to set up your camera, tripod, and then compose your shots. This can take up precious time if you’re trying to photograph the moon at a specific point.

    How to photograph the moon

    So, be sure to get there early. It may also help to change the settings on your camera before you arrive, and then tweak them as needed to save some time. Think beforehand about what kinds of photos you want to compose, and the area you want to shoot it from.

    Use a Tripod

    A tripod is essential equipment for any landscape photo and photos where light is an important factor (like sunset photography). This will ensure there is no camera shake and this allows you to capture photos in finer detail.

    How to photograph the moon

    To increase the chance of clear photos, you can set a short timer on your camera to take the photo after you’ve pressed the button. This will prevent the act of pressing the button to impact your photo.

    Incorporating the Foreground

    If you want to show more of the foreground as well as the moon in your photo, you’ll want to think about compositing two photos onto one another. It’s very difficult to get a correct exposure for both the moon and the ground or surrounding scenery, so taking multiple photos with different exposures set for each one will result in a much cleaner looking photograph.

    Image modifications are easy in Photoshop or another image editing software.

    Photographing the Moon

    Although taking photos of the moon can seem daunting at first, hopefully this guide has helped you get a better grasp on moon photography. You can put your knowledge to use the next time there is an eye-catching lunar event you just have to get a picture of. Who knows, you might end up selling your perfect photograph online and giving a fillip to your photography skills.

    Since she was a child, Kayla has had a fascination with technology, video games, and filmmaking. Growing up she wrote on multiple personal blogs about these topics, enjoying the process of breaking down technical concepts. Most recently her focus has shifted to writing, and Kayla now reviews and writes technology, video editing, and gaming related articles. Read Kayla’s Full Bio