indirect light
Home page


Note H: There are no stars visible in the sky.

See here for a general discussion on the visibility of stars in lunar photography.

Note G: You can plainly see the United States flag on the shaded side of the lunar module. This could not be a lunar shot because on the moon if something is in a shadow you cannot see it. The reason we can on earth is because the earth has air molecules that take light and bend it, spreading it around objects. Light reflects off air molecules and lights up the dark sides of objects. However, on the moon there is no prism of atmosphere to diffuse or bend light so the sky is totally black.

The conspiracist's discussion of atmospheric diffusion is accurate enough. You would expect no atmospheric diffusion in the absence of an atmosphere. However, the conspiracist is naive in assuming that atmospheric diffusion is the only source of indirect light on the lunar surface.

Conspiracists often note that the moon reflects enough light to the earth to be able to read a newspaper at night. Yet they ignore the light-reflecting properties of the lunar surface when talking about light and dark in photographs.

Imagine standing on the lunar surface in the shade of the lunar module, as Neil Armstrong was when he first stepped off the ladder. The sun is not shining directly on you, nor on anything immediately around you. But if you turn around and look away from the lunar module, you're likely to see a broad expanse of brightly lit lunar surface beyond the lunar module shadow. And if you weren't wearing your protective visor, the glare would hurt your eyes.

The point is that a lot of light rays are heading your way, not diffused by the atmosphere but bounced off the lunar surface. When light strikes the lunar surface it bounces off it in all directions. Some goes back out into space, but some bounces off at angles such to illuminate objects in shadow. Neil Armstrong reported he had no difficulty seeing in shadow, but when he went out into the light and then came back to the shadow, his eyes took several minutes to adjust.

You can see the equipment tray lowered underneath the United States emblem on the lunar module. Its white insulation glares very brightly in the sun, probably brightly enough to illuminate the white emblem.

Recall also that photography is not always as intuitive as natural eyesight when it comes to lights and darks. Thus the emblem may be hard to see with the eye, but it's visible enough to the camera.

Prev Next