Science

Astro Photographer Uses 200,000 Moon Photos to Show Exaggerated Lunar Craters and Texture

TIMEJanuary 25, 2022

Making good use of the clear night skies in Arizona, where he recently moved, astronomy buff Andrew McCarthy sets up his telescope camera in his backyard to take spectacular shots of the Moon.

After the pandemic halted his career working for a tech startup, the digital artist/photographer struck out to turn his passion into a business creating astronomical artwork, which he characterizes as a blend of “scientific communication” and “art” coupled with social media—he now sells his prints for a living.

His recently released work “Moon in Exaggerated Relief” is an exemplary showcase of his talent. In this highly textured, breathtakingly detailed rendering of our lunar satellite—the Moon—he merges 200,000 photos, with the help of CGI digital software, to recreate the celestial sphere but with exaggerated features, showing off every pit and crater of the lunar surface.

In this painstakingly modeled Moon, McCarthy used lunar elevation data provided by NASA to map the topography of rugged craters and the vast, flat lunar seas in order to bring the texture and roughness to life in three dimensions.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Andrew McCarthy and @cosmic_background)
Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Andrew McCarthy and @cosmic_background)
Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Andrew McCarthy and @cosmic_background)
Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Andrew McCarthy and @cosmic_background)

This data he then plugged into Blender (a free 3D modeling software) and multiplied it by roughly 20 times in order to communicate visually the texture that would otherwise go unnoticed by the human eye.

“My hopes with this image—along with the rest of my work—is that you are reminded there is more to our universe than meets the eye,” McCarthy told The Epoch Times. “Most of what I do is simply science communication.”

He posted the digitized lunar sphere on his Instagram, cosmic_background, with the following caption:

“By exaggerating the elevation of features on the Moon, you can really show off how different the maria is relative to the highlands. The heavily cratered highlands seem incredibly treacherous compared to the smooth basalt in the lunar seas.”

The dramatically modeled Moon image looks impressive, yet McCarthy cautions viewers about the use of CGI, which he tries to be transparent about and use “sparingly” and “only when absolutely necessary.”

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Andrew McCarthy and @cosmic_background)

“I do think that using CGI could devalue some of my other work, simply by casting doubt that it is real,” he told the newspaper. “Some of the things I capture seem too incredible to be real, but they are.”

The rendered Moon overlays a perfect sphere, yet the actual Moon is a far cry from flawlessly round; McCarthy’s exaggerated scaling is also not mathematical but tweaked until he “thought it looked good.”

He nevertheless added, “It’s an easily digestible way to learn about the Moon’s features, so it’s a bit of scientific communication as well as an art piece, since people have requested to have it in print for their walls.”

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