These Photos Taken from the Moon Show Lots and Lots of Stars

Photo of a partially-lit Earth captured by the Far Ultraviolet Camera on Apollo 16. Note that stars are visible in the background. (NASA)

One of the favorite allegations by those who continue to be skeptical of the Apollo moon landings is that there are no stars visible in the photographs taken by the astronauts while they were “supposedly” on the Moon. Now while there’s a rather short but succinct list of why that’s the case (and feel free to review those reasons here) the truth is that there ARE stars visible in photographs taken from the Moon—photographs taken in ultraviolet light during the penultimate Apollo 16 mission in April of 1972.

The image above was captured with the Far Ultraviolet Camera/Spectrograph instrument that was set up on the lunar surface by Apollo 16 astronauts John Young and Charlie Duke on April 21, 1972.

The Far-UV Camera in position with Charlie Duke and the LRV in the background. (NASA: AS16-114-18439)

It was a gold-plated, 3-inch telescope and camera with a cesium iodide cathode and film cartridge, developed by African-American physicist Dr. George Carruthers while working at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. The camera was sensitive to light “at wavelengths between 500 and 1600 Angstroms…Emission at these wavelengths comes primarily from very hot stars of spectral classes O, B, and A, with surface temperatures of 10,000° to 50,000° K. For comparison, the temperature at the visible surface of the Sun is about 5800° K or 11,000°F. Stars as faint as magnitude 11, or 100 times fainter than can be seen with the human eye, were recorded.” (Source)

Image captured with the Far Ultraviolet Camera/Spectrograph during Apollo 16 (NASA)

The Far Ultraviolet Camera was set up at the start of the first Apollo 16 EVA in the shade of the LM and aimed at planned points of astronomical interest during the course of the mission, and allowed to expose the film at various lengths as needed. At the end of the mission the film was retrieved and brought back to Earth; the camera itself remains on the surface in Descartes Highlands next to the LM descent stage.

A total of 190 UV mission photographs were taken, along with additional calibration frames.

“Specific planned targets were the geocorona, the Earth’s atmosphere, the solar wind, various nebulae, the Milky Way, galactic clusters and other galactic objects, intergalactic hydrogen, solar bow cloud, the lunar atmosphere, and lunar volcanic gases (if any).” (Source)

Image captured with the Far Ultraviolet Camera/Spectrograph during Apollo 16 (NASA)

So as we can clearly see, stars were captured on camera from the Moon. It just required a long exposure and a steady, tripod-mounted camera aimed upward from a dark location—not one strapped to the chest of an astronaut’s space suit aimed toward the bright surface of the Moon.

And why ultraviolet photography? Simple: it had scientific value. The Earth’s atmosphere blocks much of the UV light that comes in from distant stars; having an observatory on the Moon, even for a brief few days, was worth it for astronomers—especially in the days before orbiting space telescopes like Hubble.

Besides stars—which show up in some of the UV photos as streaks because of the exposure times—the Far Ultraviolet Camera also captured some very cool pictures of Earth with its atmosphere glowing with airglow and rings of aurorae visible around the polar regions.

Image captured with the Far Ultraviolet Camera/Spectrograph during Apollo 16 (NASA)

“The most immediately obvious and spectacular results were really for the Earth observations, because this was the first time that the Earth had been photographed from a distance in ultraviolet light, so that you could see the full extent of the hydrogen atmosphere, the polar auroris and what we call the tropical airglow belt.”
— Dr. George Carruthers

So basically this is yet another nail in the already nail-filled coffin lid for Apollo “hoaxers.” No stars in Apollo pictures? Nonsense. Dr. Carruthers’ golden camera captured plenty.

(By the way the images seen here aren’t readily available online from NASA; they were ordered from Goddard Space Flight Center and decoded and scanned by a private third party who goes by the handle “Apollo 16 UVC S201.” It’s a work in progress, but they are still public domain NASA images.)

See the scanned photos from the Far Ultraviolet Camera here, and check out a slideshow of the current lot of them below.

UPDATE: Here’s a processed version of the above Earth aurora photo, with some color added to enhance contrast.

Earth Aurora Far UV A16

Earth and aurora captured from the Moon in far-ultraviolet light during Apollo 16. (NASA / Jason Major)


About Jason Major

Jason is a Rhode Island-based graphic designer, photographer, nature lover, space exploration fanatic, and coffee addict. In no particular order.

Posted on April 4, 2017, in Earth, The Moon and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. This photo demonstrates the point previously made: if you expose for stars you blow-out the highlights. In this case, the earth’s details on the lit side are over exposed. This is exactly what does and did happen

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  2. I agree that the argument of the manned moon landing deniers about the lack of stars in the Apollo photos is silly but I think that the Far Ultraviolet Camera pictures are not a conclusive proof at all of men on the moon. First of all as far as I know there was only one picture of the Earth with the stars behind (The AS16-123- 19657), secondly and more important you only needed a satellite in lunar orbit with the same camera pointed towards the Earth in the appropriate angle and the same date and you could have exactly the same kind of Apollo 16 photos. As a reference the TD-1A satellite, launched to earth orbit on March 1972, took a lot of photos of the sky and the stars with an ultraviolet telescope attached to a spectrometer and is said to be a close match for the Apollo 16 photographs and this is because photos of the stars as photographed from earth is exactly how the stars would look from the moon as well.


  3. But the moon doesn’t have an atmosphere. So we don’t know that the stars would look the same if seen without the lens of the atmosphere.


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