January 19, 2021

Astrophotographer Snaps 50,000 Photos To Create One Stunning Lunar Image

A photographer has taken the world’s clearest pictures of the moon’s craters by combining multiple shots of the lunar line where light meets dark.

Californian-based astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy stacked thousands of pictures together over lunar phases to show the moon’s surface in all its glory.

The lunar enthusiast took two weeks’ worth of frames of the waxing moon – as the amount of illuminated surface seen from Earth increases.

Due to a quirk of the light caused by the ‘lunar terminator’ – the line between light and dark sides of the moon – features such as craters look elongated.

In a painstaking process, McCarthy took shots of the lunar surface where the effect is most pronounced and combined them into one detailed composite.

Andrew McCarthy: Website | Instagram | Reddit

Andrew McCarthy

The Sacramento, California-based McCarthy shot the photos using two cameras: his Sony a7 II mirrorless camera and his ZWO ASI224MC (a $250 Astro camera).

“The lit side of the moon was processed using 25 ’tiles’ that were stitched together in Photoshop,” the photographer tells PetaPixel. “Each ’tile’ was a stack of the best 50% of 2000 images captured with the ZWO.”

Andrew McCarthy

Posting to Instagram, Californian-based Mr. McCarthy described the snap, titled All Terminator, as an ‘impossible scene.’

He said: ‘From two weeks of images of the waxing moon, I took the section of the picture that has the most contrast (right before the lunar terminator where shadows are the longest), aligned and blended them to show the rich texture across the entire surface.

Andrew McCarthy

‘This was exhausting to say the least, namely because the moon doesn’t line up day over day, so each image had to be mapped to a 3D sphere and adjusted to make sure each image aligned.

‘I may or may not try this again for the waning phases depending on feedback.’

Andrew McCarthy

The Lunar Terminator is the line between the light and the dark side of the moon.

The sun is closer to the horizon in the terminator, creating long shadows that give the surface a three-dimensional appearance.

These shadows make the moon’s surface clearer and features like craters more discernible.

Andrew McCarthy

The original shots were taken using an ASI1600MM and an edgeHD 800.

More of his impressive shots are on Instagram at @cosmic-background

Andrew McCarthy

Andrew McCarthy

Andrew McCarthy

Andrew McCarthy Andrew McCarthy

This was captured by California-based astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy (Andrew McCarthy / SWNS.com) – Andrew McCarthy

The finished picture was a composite of thousands of smaller snaps (Andrew McCarthy / SWNS.com) – Andrew McCarthy

The picture is called the All Terminator (Andrew McCarthy / SWNS.com) – Andrew McCarthy