Why Aren't There Stars in the Moon Landing Photos?

By: Ashley Hamer

A vocal minority believes that the moon landing was all an elaborate hoax filmed on a sound stage in Hollywood, but it's no hoax. Here's why...

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin climbed down from the Eagle Lunar Module (leaving behind poor Michael Collins) to put the first footprints on the moon. That's the story, at least. A vocal minority believes that the moon landing was all an elaborate hoax filmed on a sound stage in Hollywood. Among their evidence is the fact that photographs and video footage don't show any stars in the sky. How could the Hollywood producers be so careless in their conspiracy? In fact, there's a pretty mundane explanation: The camera settings weren't adjusted to capture them.

Look at This Photograph

If you wanted to take a picture of a friend in direct sunlight, you'd adjust your camera settings in two ways. You'd narrow the aperture, which keeps the light-collecting area on the lens small to avoid letting in too much light: the same reason your pupils constrict in bright sunlight. You'd also speed up the shutter speed so the camera sensor would only let in light for a brief moment. If you wanted to take a picture of that same friend at night, you'd probably slow down the shutter speed and widen the aperture so you could let in enough light for a good shot.

But what if your friend was illuminated at nighttime? Then you'd have to choose what you wanted in your photo. If you wanted to include the stars in the sky, you'd need to make sure your friend stood extra still to avoid blurring the shot while the slow shutter and wide aperture let in enough light. If you kept the aperture small and the shutter speed fast, you'd capture a sharp, decently bright picture of your friend, but the sky would be dark because it wouldn't send enough light into the lens.

Say Moon Cheese!

That's the trade-off the Apollo astronauts had to make. The sky on the moon is black as night not because it is night, but because there's no atmosphere to scatter the daylight the way ours does on Earth. But make no mistake: there is every bit as much sunlight at midday on the moon as there is on our home planet. That makes the lunar surface incredibly bright. The scenery on the moon was the most important thing to capture in the Apollo photographs, so the camera was adjusted to make the most out of that scenery. As a result, the relatively dim stars in the background didn't register in any of the shots. No hoax: just a trick of the camera lens.


This article first appeared on Curiosity.com. Click here to read the original article.

Next Up

Why We'll (Probably) Never Be Able to Teleport

For many of us, teleportation would be the absolute best way to travel. Imagine just stepping into a transporter and being able to go thousands of miles in nearly an instant.

Why Does Pluto Have Such a Weird Orbit?

Pluto is the black sheep of the planets in our solar system and it looks like astronomers aren’t sure how long Pluto will remain in its present orbit.

4 Reasons Why Earth is the Best Planet to Call Home

Since 1970, folks from around the world have gathered together to celebrate Earth Day, an appreciation for all the good stuff we’ve got here on the Earth – and a reminder to try not to mess it up. But what’s so special about the Earth, anyway?

India’s Space Agency is Going Big… By Going Small

Astrophysicist Paul M. Sutter shares the latest in the world of rocket launches and what India’s SSLV is all about.

SpaceX vs. the Universe

Fans of space are having a tough time picking sides over a recent controversy between SpaceX and astronomers. But what's the big debate all about? Astrophysicist Paul M. Sutter digs into both perspectives.

All Aboard the Starliner!

Boeing’s Starliner capsule launched on Friday. Astrophysicist Paul M Sutter has everything you need to know about the Starliner and its mission.

Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Perseverance Right Over

A few years ago, after the successful deployment of the Curiosity rover on Mars, the folks at NASA envisioned a bold new plan to send another mission to the red planet. The mission was scheduled to depart in the then-futuristic year of 2020.

2020: A Year of Big Leaps for Mankind

Here are a variety of some amazing space launches to look forward to in 2020.

Let’s Look for Water on the Moon

NASA is headed to the moon, but this time it's in search of water. Astrophysicist Paul M Sutter shares what this means and why it's important.

Voyager 2 is Really Far Out There, Man

Currently Voyager 2 is about 11 billion miles from the Earth, and has been traveling at speeds of tens of thousands of miles per hour since its launch in 1977. Read more to see where it is now and what we've learned.
Related To: