This Beautiful Photo of the Moon Is 50,000 Images Rolled Into 1

moon with top of spear glowing in sunlight

Andrew McCarthy / CosmicBackground

Of the countless images of the moon available online, you've likely never seen one as arresting as this one.

The image, a composition of some 50,000 exposures taken over one hour. It was captured by astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy on the evening of Feb. 12 from his backyard in Sacramento, California.

"The moon looked particularly gorgeous," McCarthy told Treehugger, "and after several days of rain, the seeing was remarkably clear for the 1-2 hour window when the moon was out. I looked at it through my scope and decided to try and create an image that reflected the beauty of what I could see through the lens since photos really don't do it justice."

moon aglow with sunlight
Look at the detail of the moon's surface. Andrew McCarthy / CosmicBackground

How McCarthy Captured the Image

To pull off his NASA-worthy, 81-megapixel image, McCarthy used an Orion XT10 telescope, Skywatcher EQ6-R Pro tracking mount, and two cameras (Sony A7 II and a ZWO ASI 224MC CCD camera).

"This image was created using a combination of shots from 2 different cameras, one to capture earthshine and stars, and one to capture the detail on the lit side of the moon," he wrote on Reddit, where the image quickly went viral. "The shots were then stacked and pieced together for editing. I took so many shots to average out the blurring caused by atmospheric turbulence, as well as to eliminate noise captured by the camera sensor."

McCarthy's Photography Plans for the Future

McCarthy, who has crafted more beautiful composites like the one above, says he wants to provide even more detailed shots of objects in our celestial backyard.

"I am working on improving my skills with the equipment I'm using, and have many, many goals for creating much higher quality images of many objects," he told Treehugger. "I would like to do another solar system portrait this year, and capture animations of each planet and the moon's rotation. I would also love to do time-lapses of solar activity and capture high-definition images of each deep space object in our sky."