You don’t have to be an astrophotographer to have a photo of the Moon in your collection. The Moon appears, markedly, in all of the photos in with the same steely gray color. It is very common even in NASA photos. Just search Google and you’ll see photos like this one.
The relatively flat plains, called Mare, and are dark gray. Don’t forget the craters. Similarly they have varying brightness of, you guessed it, gray. On the contrary, there are the very bright areas which look white. From the first time man has laid eyes on the Moon it has looked this way.
Why So Many Shades
What is causing the Moon to have so many shades of gray? We see color based on the color of light the objects’ molecules reflect. In this case, we see the colors of elements like oxygen, silicon, aluminium, magnesium, iron and calcium. Specifically, the Moon reflects 12% of light from the Sun. Consequently, that still makes the Moon a very bright night sky object. And when full, it is enough to overpower the light from other objects in the night sky. Since light from the Sun is white, you can expect the true color of the Moon to be hidden.
So what if I told you the Moon other colors. You’d mostly likely say nope, you’re wrong, or even no way. Alternatively, hidden in the light are browns, reds, blues and others. Scrolling through Twitter, I noticed a detailed true color photo of the Moon and my fascination with the Moon hit a new high. This one is the best I’ve seen and it took 32,000 photos to create. You can see it here. I began to YouTube videos to learn how this photo and other like it were produced.
Frustration to Innovation
After reaching my highest level of frustration with light pollution in my area, I invested in a SkyGlow filter. Then poof, the story hidden in the light was revealed. A light pollution filter is a must for astrophotography when you live in a light polluted area. They are specifically designed to filter the glow of street lights.
Now using this tool and GIMP (photo editing software), I was able to do a photo comparison. The difference is astounding. On the left is my initial attempt to find the true color. On the right is the result using the SkyGlow Filter. Yep, striking difference. After I learned how to edit the right picture, I went back to duplicate on the data from the left. No go. I was not able to get the true color to reveal from this data. Conclusion, too much light pollution. Here’s a link to a good tutorial.
My next step is to improve the quality of the picture. I think it’s a bit too grainy. I took many, many more pictures only to discover that true color is elusive for me. Needless to say, failure only creates a drive to keep trying for success. Don’t stop trying.
Elusive no more. I did get a better picture. I took 10 photos with my trusted Google Pixel and stacked them twice. One time in black and white and the other in color. I used the black and white for the detail. Combined both to get this result. It’s pretty good, but it can and will get better. This hobby is fun. Please comment below with your experiences and clear skies.