'The most ridiculously detailed' photo of the moon has been captured
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Featured Image Credit: @cosmic.speck/Instagram
A viral post containing ‘the most ridiculously detailed’ image of the moon ever captured on camera has been dazzling viewers around the world this week - and NASA had nothing to do with it.
Unlike the plethora of high-res cosmic photography we’ve been blessed with this year, this breathtaking snap doesn’t come from the James Webb telescope but instead, it comes from two astrophotographers who met each other on Reddit.
Stargazers Andrew McCarthy and Connor Matherne first connected on Reddit and then Instagram several years ago after becoming mutual fans of each other's work.
McCarthy is renowned in his field for his incredibly detailed photographs, taking tens of thousands of photos and stitching them together in a ‘mosaic’ fashion to create incredibly detailed and precise images of his subjects.
Matherne meanwhile specialises in deep space photography, and has gained acclaim for his vibrant and colourful snaps of distant galaxies and nebulae.
After making contact with one other and recognizing each other's relative strengths in photography, the two soon decided to team up and collaborate on a photoshoot of the Earth’s moon.
Over the course of a single night, McCarthy shot over 200,000 detailed photos of the moon from Arizona, capturing every single inch of its surface, while Matherne focused on the colour, taking another 500 photos which highlighted the reds, greys, blues and browns that help make the image so unique.
The two then combined their work by stacking the photos on top of one another and spent the next nine months tweaking and editing the data until the final image was complete.
"Andrew aimed purely for the detail side whereas I aimed purely for the colour side," Matherne said in an interview with NPR. "That allowed us to get the full moon."
“Combined, we ended up with an incredibly detailed photo of our lunar neighbour in stunning colour.”
In a Reddit post explaining the unusual colours present in the piece, McCarthy said: "The colour in this image is real, but presented with increased saturation so it is easily visible to our eyes."
"The reddish tones demonstrate areas rich in iron and feldspar, while the bluish areas are spots where the regolith is rich in titanium. Oxidization from influence from Earth's atmosphere makes the colours appear like they do."
He also explained that without Matherne’s ability to capture the colours of space in such fantastic detail, the image would have instead turned out 'a dreary grey'.
McCarthy dubbed the image 'The Hunt for Artemis', which he called a 'collaborative tribute' to NASA’s upcoming Artemis I mission - which will see a crew of astronauts return to the moon for the first time since 1972.
The Artemis mission is tentatively scheduled for 2025, but until the crew return with eye-witness photos of the moon’s surface it’s highly likely that this collaboration is the closest you’re going to get to seeing it up close.
Prints of the photo can also be purchased on McCarthy's website.