Rolling Rock’s bucket o’ Moon graffiti

By Phil Plait | March 5, 2008 3:30 pm

Via Digg I heard that the makers of Rolling Rock beer want to, um, Moonvertise.

That is, use a laser to paint an ad on the Moon.


So I checked out the Rolling Rock moonvertising website. Then I waited several minutes for their incredibly bad and slow-loading Flash page to come up on my browser.

Strike One.

Then, obnoxious music and sound effects blared out my speaker, and it wasn’t obvious at first how to turn them down or off.

Strike Two.

Then, their Flash animation started eating up all my CPU.

Strike Three.


OK, I still hung out to figure out what the heck this was about. The idea, according to the site, is that they will use a big laser to shine their logo on the full Moon. Let’s be clear up front: this is a joke. It took me about three seconds (after the ten minute loading to finish) to figure that out.

<Pedant mode ON>

Realistically, it’s not possible to do what they want to do. The Moon is a quarter million miles away, and lasers spread. Even tightly focused beams will spread out hugely by that distance. That means the power gets spread out, so the laser is pretty dim by the time it gets to the Moon.

Then, the light has to be reflected back to the Earth. The Moon is really not terribly reflective; its average albedo is about 12%, which means it reflects only 12% of the light that hits it. So you lose 7/8 of the light you send there anyway.

Of course, a laser powerful enough to overcome all this would probably have military applications, since it would have enough power to slice an incoming missile in half. Calling Chris Knight and Mitch Taylor! I imagine the FAA might be a little concerned about planes in the area, too. Any birds that happen to fly too close might be fried… hmmmm, does crow go with beer?

And, duh of duhs, they say they are doing this during the full Moon, when the surface of the Moon is lit up by the Sun! The best time to do this would be around first quarter, when the Moon is half dark, and up during the early evening. That way the surface is dark and provides contrast, and more people will be around to see it.

<Pedant mode OFF>

So this is a clever idea as far as satirical advertising goes, and not meant to be taken seriously… which hasn’t stopped people, of course.

But, if it gets people to go outside and look at the full Moon, well, that’s still pretty cool. We’ll see.

Or not.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Debunking, Humor, Skepticism

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