Time to upgrade your wallpapers, folks.
Two astrophotographers have just dropped what they’re calling the “most ridiculously detailed picture” of the moon — the result of a painstaking, grueling effort over about two years and more than 200,000 frames in the making.
For millennia, people have looked up and seen the same silver orb crossing the night sky – but never quite like this. As space photography enthusiast Andrew McCarthy says of his collaboration with planetary scientist Connor Matherne, “check out” this stunning image:
As you enjoy this 174-megapixel beauty, you can see the Moon, colored red and bronze blue, illuminated from the right side as it faces Earth. The red spots are iron and feldspar oxidized by stray oxygen atoms from Earth, McCarthy explain for curious viewers on Twitter.
Although the colors may look fake, they are technically the true hues of the Moon, only our eyes are not sensitive enough to see them, and so McCarthy gave the image boost saturation to reveal the colors in all their glory.
McCarthy’s specialty is actually detailed photography, taking tens of thousands of photos to capture every nook, cranny and crater on the lunar surface. Matherne, a planetary scientist and deep space photographer shooting from Louisiana, is the color lover we also have to thank.
As for how it was made, the masterpiece consists of more than 200,000 images, all shot in one night and stacked together.
“The whole thing is put together like a mosaic, and each tile is made up of thousands of photos,” McCarthy told NPR, simplifying what must have been a lengthy editing process.
The couple certainly has outdid themselves and gave NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope a run for its money.
But it’s another NASA mission — one that’s preparing to return humans to the moon for the first time since 1972 — that inspired their artistic endeavors.
“This image is a love letter to the upcoming Artemis 1 mission, the first human-rated lunar launch vehicle in 50 years,” McCarthy tweeted.
The first big milestone in that mission, set to launch on August 29, is an uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System, a superheavy rocket capable of (hopefully) slingshotting astronauts around the far side of the moon.
Later Artemis missions planned to land astronauts near the moon’s permanently shadowed spots.
This isn’t the first time that McCarthy and Matherne, who first connected via Reddit, have gifted us with jaw-dropping photos of the moon and other celestial bodies in pleasing candy colors.
My photo of the Triffid Nebula, a small nebula located 4000 light years away.
While the specs are cool and all, I think it looks like forbidden cotton candy and I’m really not over it. pic.twitter.com/x25HbS0DOo
— Connor Matherne (@MatherneConnor) August 22, 2022
Two years ago, the couple shared their first photo together on the moon, which in retrospect it looks pretty subdued compared to their most recent revelation, but at the time it stunned viewers.
And in 2019, McCarthy published this grayscale photo of our Moon, bathed in light and floating serenely through space, somewhat reminiscent of the iconic image of Earth’s sunrise taken by astronaut Bill Anders aboard Apollo 8.
While these kinds of pictures are beyond the reach of us Earthbound humans, the awe-inspiring pictures that McCarthy and Mattern create using basic equipment—a camera, a tripod, and a star tracker—are not.
However, as McCarthy told NPR, it takes a lot of patience to come up with the goods, and most nights he leaves empty-handed.
“Anybody can do it, but it takes a special temperament,” he said.