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Astrophotographer shares how he takes such stunning lunar images

AccuWeather logo AccuWeather 6/28/2022 Wyatt Loy

A photographer in Arizona captured one of the clearest images yet of the moon's surface. The final picture is a composite of about 30,000 individual shots, taken using a telescope and a purpose-made camera for astrophotography.

Andrew McCarthy, who is better known online as @cosmic_background on Instagram, gained popularity worldwide for his jaw-dropping pictures of celestial bodies. Recently, he shared a video online of his process for capturing the beauty of the moon.

The video shows McCarthy in the observatory that he keeps in his backyard in Arizona. He points his telescope at the moon, and includes footage of how it appears through the lens. Then, there's a time-lapse of McCarthy "stacking" the best images on top of one another through software.

"It involves taking thousands of pictures very quickly and letting software sort through them, rejecting blurry or bad ones while stacking the rest to create one image that has much higher quality," McCarthy told AccuWeather's Prime show. "By applying this technique to close-up shots of the moon's surface, you can see craters in much more vivid detail."

This method creates a level of clarity and definition that would typically require a much larger telescope to see in person.

"The contrast turned out really nice. The craters and 'seas' stand out nicely, without looking too overly processed. The subtle color from the mineral content showed up nicely too!" McCarthy said. "So far, everyone seems to love it"

He said he's frequently asked questions about his type of telescope "or how it looks as I'm capturing images, versus after stacking and processing," McCarthy told Newsflare. "So I thought it could make for a cinematic presentation of the image."

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Astrophotographers like himself primarily photograph things beyond our atmosphere -- "our solar system, our galaxy and beyond," McCarthy told AccuWeather. "I bought my first telescope in 2017, and I first started using it for photography in 2018, capturing very basic photographs."

McCarthy said it doesn't require special skills or knowledge in astronomy to find the subjects he photographs.

"Thankfully smarter people than I did all the hard work of calculating where everything will be in the sky on any given night. I just point my telescope where my various apps tell me," McCarthy said. "Planets, the moon and the sun don't require anything that fancy since I can see where they are."

Of course, for an astrophotographer as passionate as McCarthy, this is not his first time taking such sharp images of the lunar surface. On his website he regularly features photos of the moon, planets, the sun and distant stars at different angles, with different colors and effects and from various locations across the United States.

"My favorite photos are generally of the International Space Station transiting the sun or moon," McCarthy said. "They are a lot of work to capture, and when I pull them off just right they end up being pretty amazing."

However, he said there are enough deep space targets to keep him busy for decades.

"What inspires me about space is the infinite possibilities," he told Forbes in 2019. "Each little pocket of the night sky has so much vast beauty it's incomprehensible."

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