174-megapixel photo of the Moon. Image Credit: McCarthy and Matherne.

This 174-Megapixel Photograph Is One of the Most Detail Images of the Moon

The 174-megapixel photo consist of more than 200,000 individual shots of the lunar surface, taken by two astrophotographers and stacked into one stunning piece of art.


Two astrophotographers have just produced what they call “the most ridiculously detailed picture” of the Moon (get a copy here). To achieve this masterpiece, the duo spent two years and took over 200,000 photographs of Earth’s natural satellite.

The photograph, which is a true piece of art, shows what dedication, passion, and love for astrophotography can produce.

And as someone who is an amateur astrophotographer, I cannot stop staring at the incredible piece.

It is difficult to use the right words to describe such beauty, so it is perhaps best left for astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy to describe his collaboration with planetary scientist Connor Matherne, “behold” this stunning image:


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A post shared by Andrew McCarthy (@cosmic_background)

Viewers can observe the Moon’s right side illuminated in gunmetal blue and red while viewing this 174-megapixel work of art. According to McCarthy on Twitter, the red patches result from errant oxygen atoms from Earth oxidizing iron and feldspar.

Despite their false appearance, the colors on the Moon actually reflect the Moon’s true colors; our eyes cannot discern these hues, so McCarthy boosted the saturation of the image to bring them out.

The photograph would not have been possible without the collaboration of two true photography masters.

McCarthy was tasked with 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, was tasked with obtaining the magical colors of the lunar surface.

“I captured the color data while @cosmic_background captured the details. Combined, we ended up with an incredibly detailed photo of our lunar neighbor in stunning color,” Matherne (Cosmic.speck) wrote on his Instagram account.

This photograph was created by stacking more than 200,000 images taken during a single evening.

“The whole thing is assembled like a mosaic, and each tile is made up of thousands of photos,” McCarthy explained during an interview with NPR.

Mcarthy, whose Instagram profile is cosmic.background, calls the photograph “The Hunt for Artemis” and reveals it is a collaborative tribute to the imminent Artemis 1 mission.

“This image is a love letter to the upcoming Artemis 1 mission, the first human-rated lunar launch vehicle in 50 years,” McCarthy wrote in a Tweet.

Artemis I is set to make history on August 29, 2022, as it is scheduled to kickstart humankind’s return to the Moon.

Check out McCarthy’s website for prints, highlights for downloads, tips, and tricks.

*The featured image was posted with permission.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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