Doing the impossible: Astrophotographer releases super detailed image of the moon's terminator

The lunar line that divides the face of the moon that is visible to Earth and the dark side of the moon.


An astrophotographer has released the most detailed image of the moon - craters, cracks, and all, and it is hauntingly beautiful.

The pockmarked surface that is a result of billions of years bogeys hitting it.

Those areas of dark and light is a reflection of human emotions and behaviour.

Looks like the moon can bring out the poet in the best of us.

This image captured by California-based astrophotographer, Andrew McCarthy, is not an ordinary image. He has even called it "impossible". He carefully selected sections of the moon, from two weeks' worth of images, aligned them together, and formed this one image you see now.

The Lunar terminator image that was released by Andrew McCarthy. Image credit: Instagram.

The Lunar terminator image that was released by Andrew McCarthy. Image credit: Instagram.

He posted it on his Instagram and spoke about his process for developing this image in the caption.

He said, "From 2 weeks of images of the waxing moon, I took the section of the picture that has the most contrast (right before the lunar terminator where shadows are the longest), aligned and blended them to show the rich texture across the entire surface."

While the process was no doubt arduous, clicking these pictures was a task in itself.

The image has been named the "Lunar Terminator" by McCarthy and it refers to the lunar line that divides the face of the moon that is visible to Earth and the dark side of the moon. It is the lunar equivalent of the division between night and day on the Earth.


View this post on Instagram

Oops... All terminator! I haven't posted in a while, partly because I was under the weather, and partly because I was working on this BEAST of a project. This moon might look a little funny to you, and that's because it is an impossible scene. From 2 weeks of images of the waxing moon, I took the section of the picture that has the most contrast (right before the lunar terminator where shadows are the longest), aligned and blended them to show the rich texture across the entire surface. This was exhausting to say the least, namely because the moon doesn't line up day over day, so each image had to be mapped to a 3d sphere and adjusted to make sure each image aligned. I may or may not try this again for the waning phases depending on feedback. The full size for this, as well as a phone background, was shared with patrons. Check the link in my bio if you'd like to join and get access to more exclusive content! Prints are also available through my main gallery.

A post shared by Andrew McCarthy (@cosmic_background) on

Live Science explains, "This terminator line moves around constantly depending on the phase of the moon, revealing or concealing new sections of the lunar surface each day. Because the terminator line heightens the contrast between the light and dark sides of the moon’s face, shadows look elongated and intensified in craters closest to the terminator."

As mentioned above, he took pictures of the waxing moon (the moon that is on its way to becoming a full moon) over two weeks. The gravitationally bound, natural satellite of the Earth does not always stick to one position in the sky and McCarthy resorted to clicking each crater close to the lunar terminator and then put them all together like a giant, pixeled jigsaw puzzle.

He said, "The moon doesn't line up day over day, so each image had to be mapped to a 3d sphere and adjusted to make sure each image aligned."


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