Jaw-dropping Moon mosaic

By Phil Plait | March 9, 2012 7:00 am

It’s funny what a difference a little resolution makes. For example, if you look at this photo of the Moon, you’d probably agree it’s very well done and very pretty:

Nice, right? But I post lots of really great pictures here, and this one at first glance doesn’t seem to distinguish itself.

Ah, but appearances can be deceiving: I had to lower the resolution way down to fit my blog. Way down. If you click to enlunenate it, you get a very, very different impression of it, since it’s actually a ginormous 3890 x 4650 pixel monster mosaic! That’s 18 megapixels of lunar goodness!

And it’s gorgeous.

Its not a single shot, but a very nicely done and seamless mosaic of images taken by André vd Hoeven using a Celestron 28 cm (11") telescope. It was actually created using video: he pointed at one part of the Moon, took a 30 second movie at 60 frames per second, and then used software which picked the best of those frames and added them together to produce a single image. He then moved the telescope to a different part of the Moon and repeated the procedure over and over again, until he had 107 images in total! These were then processed to sharpen them up, and finally put together to create the mosaic. The detail is crisp and stunning; you really need to just load up the big image and scroll around it.

I’m amazed at the detail and richness of it. Craters, cliff walls, mountains, and rays pop right out, as well as subtle features difficult to see just looking through a telescope. All in all, as I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s truly an incredible shot. So I’m glad we got that resolved.

Image credit: André vd Hoeven, used by permission. Tip o’ the dew shield to theritz.


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NASA Goddard rocks the Moon
Video of the lunar far side from GRAIL/Ebb
One guy fooling around with the Moon
Ring around the Moon

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: André vd Hoeven, Moon

Comments (29)

  1. Larry

    That is simply stunning, Phil. Props to the photographer. It must have taken many hours of work to bring it to fruition. I’d love to have a wall-size blow-up of this. I could explore it for days.

    On the geek side, do you know what the actual resolution of the image is? I can see little pin-prick craters that are probably huge but I don’t know how to scale it.

  2. Mejilan

    Wow. Wow.
    Alright, who’s the brave soul out there that’s willing to fess up to the man on the moon and inform him that his abode is weirdly shaped?

  3. jorenko

    You’re a jerk, Plait. A real knee-brighter.

    ….. I admit defeat. Your pun-fu is better.

  4. Nigel Depledge

    Stunning image. Well done indeed, André.

  5. Bigfoot

    Great image!

    @Larry,

    At 4650 pixels tall. minus about 10 percent of the vertical frame for the space around the moon, and seeing as how the moon’s mean diameter is about 2160 miles, it works out very close to about 2 pixels per linear mile at the spot of the moon directly facing us.

    Anywhere else on the moon requires some trig to calculate, but for an imaginary disc about one third of the diameter of the moon image itself and centered on the spot facing us, the dimensions would stay pretty close to that.

  6. Bigfoot: that sounds about right. Atmospheric blurring keeps things to about an arcsecond of resolution, which is about a mile on the Moon anyway. He did deconvolve the images, which sharpens them somewhat, but I don’t know how much.

  7. It’s amazing what detail you can get nowadays with ground-based telescopes.

    These were then processed to sharpen them up, and finally put together to create the mosaic.

    Then again, didn’t you post a link (on G+, I think) to an article on the dangers of “over-processing” images? (Not that that happened here, of course.)

  8. Great picture André. And great too to see it here on Phil’s Bad Astronomy. Recently André was able to photograph craters on the moon only 1 km in diameter! See his (dutch) blog about that: http://www.astroblogs.nl/2012/02/06/de-maan-wat-kun-je-zien-vanaf-aarde-met-een-redelijke-telescoop/

  9. Larry – probably not as much work involved as you are imagining! No disrespect intended to anyone, it’s just that I’m just getting into this type of imaging myself, and once you get the hang of it (and have the right equipment and viewing conditions) you can get some incredible images very easily. The hardest part is often having a clear night with little light pollution!

    Ken B – if you are stacking images (i.e. as done here from frames), you stand less risk of artefacts occurring that could detract from the image. That’s why it’s a very common technique and there is specialist software out there for image stacking (think AVIstack, Registax etc)

  10. SkyGazer

    That´s a hell of a WOW factor pic!
    Incredible what can be done with “amateur market” scopes and cams nowadays an a lot of TLC!
    Just WOW!

  11. Themos Tsikas

    Ok, where is his telescope based? and what camera did he use? I sometimes see little parts of the moon done at such resolution but to do the whole thing is very rare.

  12. Excellent work, and it’s really an art, mixed with technological prowess. Just yesterday, reviewing the latest from Mark Robinson at LROC on North Ray crater (easily seen in the mosaic here), we took a look at Lick Observatory photograph from 1947 and compared it in stages with a November mosaic put together by the “miracle boys from Minsk” at Astronominsk, a LROC WAC mosaic from late 2010, a nominal LROC NAC image of the Apollo 16 landing site at 0.5 meters resolution, and another at 0.25 meters resolution gathered during LRO’s second low periapsis passes over the lunar surface from November.

    (I believe the latter will be among the images released to the Planetary Data System on March 15.)

    We were at a loss for words. The skill, so-called, amateurs show is so superior to that of professional astronomer’s it defies description. We chose to “value-add” only two images to our re-post of Robinson’s latest, a full-resolution shot of the southern Highlands centered on North and South Ray craters and the 60 m resolution 643 nm LROC WAC mosaic.

    After reconfiguring our jaws, someone of us commented on the difficulty there might be in proving how easily those equipped with even modest telescopes can easily spot North and South Ray from their own back yards.

  13. Tara Li

    I can’t wait for the assembled multi-gigapixel image of the Moon from LRO shots.

  14. lunchstealer

    Great Googly Moogly, that’s a heckuva shot, and probably the first time I’ve really studied the moon’s surface where I could see enough features to make sense of some things. I don’t think I’d realized that Mare Imbrium was a massive impact feature before. You can really get a sense of it with that much detail around the edges.

    Of course that started a wikipedia chain that went through Hellas Basin to the list of largest impact structures in the system, to the list of highest mountains in the system, to Vesta, to the list of largest main belt objects, to the fact that Ceres is both spherical and differentiated by density. And then a bit of quick math that suggests that Vesta and Ceres combined, by some estimates, may comprise nearly half the mass of the asteroid belt.

    And then the realization that it wasn’t 10AM anymore, but closer to 11.

  15. Jarrod

    Wow! The texture of the surface is absolutely stunning. It almost looks artificial. It’s views like this that keep my eye stuck in my eyepiece at night while the rest of my body fights off frostbite for hours on end.

  16. artbot

    Can someone explain what the ripples and three fracture lines are at the lower left, right along the meridian? Looks like a lava flow for the stepped ripples, but the three lines are curious.

  17. It’s really cool to see that great shots are taken from one of the most light-polluted countries (I live there too) of the world! We Dutch certainly seem to have a fling with astronomy anyhow :)

  18. vandystar7

    Thank you Phil, that was fabulous.

  19. Awesome shot!

    I’ve done a bunch of mosaics and know how much of a pain it can be to process them :). This shot easily outclasses my best, but Andre does have a bigger scope and way better camera than I do!.

    The key is seeing conditions (how steady the air is) and have a camera that can capture enough good frames to stack. Light pollution is not a factor because the moon is so bright.

    I think it is sad that more people don’t do more moon imaging. The moon can be boring in that it always shows the same face and is unchanging. Most of the people who have large scopes and good cameras rather image the planets than take the time do so some lunar imaging. But when they turn their scope to the moon instead, the results can be fantastic!

    I like to image the moon, but it is usually on nights that the seeing is bad enough that it isn’t worth trying to image the other planets. That is why my images aren’t as sharp as what Andre was able to get.

    Below is a link to the best image I have gotten with my scope/camera….and you can see it is nowhere as near as sharp as the one posted above.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/zamb0ni/5951994503

  20. Thank you all so much for your nice responses.

    Larry: I have it available on A1 poster, that shows a lot of details…. :)

    Ken: deconvolution is not really sharpening, but bringing out the details that are there, but are a little blurred. You’re right you should be very careful with this….

    Marisa: I think you make it too easy here. I admit that with the right conditions and equipment the imaging is not to hard, but processing after wards is still quite a big job. Making the images and mosaicing cost about 6-8 hours al together. Besides that it took about 1,5 hours of imaging with carefully making overlapping images, and making sure not to miss a single part…. It’s not too difficult, but it really costs a lot of time….

  21. Bandwidth Bandito

    Hey wow, I think I can see my moonbase from here

  22. Herschel's back garden

    If you used this technique and just took pictures of the terminator region over a month you’d be able to create a picture of the moon with “modelling” all over it. With a “natural” view, such as this one, lots of detail is missing where the sun is approximately overhead.

    Of course it would be quite tricky because you would also have to correct for the moon wobbling around during the course of a month.

    Has anyone ever produced an image like this?

  23. CoffeeCupContrails

    Love the bumps on the horizon! Followed that all the way to the south.

    Do the craters down south look a little… stretched? Artifact of the processing or a natural optical effect? Maybe, just the lighting.

  24. That’s purely a visual effect. The image was not stretched in any way. It’s probably because of the oblique view…

  25. DLC

    Very well done!
    but… why did you darken out the part where the NWO secret moon base is ? I mean, how can we carry out President Gingrich’s plan to make the moon the 51st state if we can’t see where the Enemy put it’s base ? maybe we could just email them that now all their base are ours.

  26. Bruce

    Absolutely stunning image Andre – well done.

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