Andrew McCarthy and Connor Matherne collaborated to come up with 'the most ridiculous moon shot we could come up with' two years ago.
On the internet, an elaborate picture of the moon taken neither by NASA nor the James Webb telescope is gaining popularity. The photo was created using mosaic-like stitching from hundreds of thousands of photos.
Astrophotographers Andrew McCarthy and Connor Matherne collaborated two years ago to come up with "the most ridiculous moon shot we could come up with," according to McCarthy's Reddit post. The finished work was published online on Saturday and has received thousands of comments in addition to more than 100,000 upvotes. While Matherne focuses on colors, McCarthy specializes in fine details and has photographed geographic characteristics on the moon's surface, according to USA Today.
"Two years ago, I got the chance to collaborate with my favorite lunar photographer @cosmic_background. This year, we decided we wanted to out do our old moon shot with an even better one. This is the highest resolution shot of the moon I have ever taken, I captured the color data while @cosmic_background captured the details," Matherne wrote on Instagram. The efforts of the two combined generated a pointed, extremely detailed photo of the moon.
A total of 200,000 black and white shots by McCarthy from Arizona and 50,000 color photos by Matherne were taken over the course of one night last November and it took months of editing to produce the final image. "The result is this 174-megapixel shot," Mccarthy wrote on Instagram. The shoot, called “The Hunt for Artemis” by the two photographers, is "a collaborative tribute to the imminent Artemis 1 mission," according to the photographers.
The moon seems white and gray to human eyes, but scientific observational tools record minor color variations. According to Matherne, these hues shed light on the variations in lunar surface minerals, and the advantage of such high-quality photographs is being able to see what lies further than the scope of the human eye. According to McCarthy, regions with reddish tones are rich in feldspar and iron, while those with blue tones are rich in titanium.
The photos shared on the Instagram carousel showcase different aspects of the moon. The first photo, for instance, shows us the complete image of the moon in color. The second slide shows the distinct hues and tones the moon has and the variations between the red and blue tones. Some other images closely show the texture of the moon's surface and focus brilliantly on the craters and other textures on the moon.
A user on Reddit explained the usage of tones and saturation in astrophotography, "The red-ish color is iron oxide just like in the earth’s dirt, normally you can’t see it because it’s very faint, they chose to increase a lot the saturation to have a more visually interesting and complex image, I think they mentioned it in a comment or on their website. This is something that is done a lot in astrophotography, along with filtering to get particular wavelengths and false coloring (I believe to correct stuff like red shift and make a larger light spectrum visible in general), otherwise most if not all the gorgeous galaxies and nebulas and such that we have seen through the years would appear in grayscale or very close to it."
The remarkable images of the moon that went viral recently were created by geologist and LSU alumnus Connor Matherne (LSU ’17, ’19) and astrophotography collaborator Andrew McCarthy.— LSU (@LSU) September 2, 2022
Q&A with our alum: https://t.co/4axKImqkFk
📸credit: Connor Matherne & Andrew McCarthy pic.twitter.com/3WBBlzAJ82
Louisiana State University interviewed Matherne, an alum of the University, where he expressed that the driver for the work he does is to get people "excited about the universe and our place in it." He said, "Anything I can do to help get the public excited generally results in more missions and funding for awesome scientists to lead great projects like Artemis or the Mars Perseverance Rover. With that said, if my photos only result in a single person going outside and looking up at the stars, that is still a victory in my book."