Earth-shine on the Moon

Earthshine on a crescent moon, taken April 28 2020

I totally understand famous astronomer/astrophotographer/Australian Dylan O’Donnell’s distaste for the Moon. Because my camera is a “one-shot-color” type and I don’t use filters in my astrophotography, the Moon blows out most dark objects when it’s shining. Even when the moon is in it’s first quarter, the night is noticeably brighter.

Normally, these nights photographing the night sky are wasted. Sometimes, especially if the moon is full, I don’t even bother bringing out the telescope for clear skies. But after seeing several other astrophotographer’s attempts at capturing “Earthshine” I decided to give it a go.

Moonshine is the reflection of the Sun’s light off the Moon. Earthshine is the reflection of the Sun’s light of the Earth. Our very snowy ice caps & big broad oceans are poor mirrors, but enough light shines onto the Moon so that photographers (and those with good eyes) can make out some of it’s largest features.

Capture & Processing Details

I took approximately 50 photos at different exposure lengths & gain settings. Out of those 50, I chose one “dark” frame and one “light frame” that would allow me to see both sides of the moon.

Creating a layer mask in Photoshop, I was able to blend the two photos together to create a semi-realistic version of what the moon actually looks like to the human eye. Not completely black, but also not blindingly bright.

I give my end result an 7/10. As my fellow Canadian astrophotographer Tudor pointed out to me, our sensitive CMOS cameras will cause additional glare in the photo which is hard to completely remove. This is visible near the lower center of the moon.

If you’d like to see a full size version, click the image above or visit my Astrobin.

On my next attempt, I’ll go with a thinner moon to try to eliminate or reduce the glare.

Earthshine photos are very easy if you’ve got a lens that can make out detail on the moon. Follow Dylan’s quick tutorial below and wow your friends on Instagram.

Watch on Youtube

See more of my Moon shots

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