Were there any photos of the Milky Way taken from the moon?

From any of the Apollo moon missions, I do not recall seeing any photos of the Milky Way.

I scrolled through the archive, but admittedly did not look at every photo.

I know they were film cameras, but the techniques were available to do long exposure photography, right?

Google searches have failed me.

I don’t have a specific answer, but keep in mind that the astronauts were always on the moon in sunlight. The reflected sunlight would tend to wash out the stars (cue no-moon-landing conspiracy theorists), so a picture of the Milky Way would probably not turn out too well. Also, they were rather preoccupied with the moon, since, that’s why they were there.

Why The Apollo Moon Pictures Have No Stars

Long exposure times require a tripod or some other means of stabilizing the camera. In a situation where every ounce counts, I doubt that they prioritized bringing one along just so that they could take pictures of something that can be photographed from Earth’s surface or from orbit. The moon itself was brightly sunlit, needing only short exposure times (and was the subject that they were interested in photographing.)

Plus, they forgot to paint a copy of the Milky Way on the studio backdrop.

If I recall correctly, all six landing sites were on the side of the moon facing Earth. The light from the planet would make it difficult to take a picture of the surrounding stars.

I’ve only seen one picture with a starfield, and that includes Earth (overexposed). Even that one was, I think, in completely the wrong direction to see the Milky Way.

Even if they had been in the right direction, I’m not sure that the camera technology was up to snuff in the 60’s. They could do long exposure times, but even today it takes a reasonably high-end camera set up in just the right way.

You underestimate a Hasselblad, not your great-grandfather’s pinhole camera. 12 Hasselblads are still on the Moon, so take along some 120 roll film if you go there.

This is the camera used by Apollo 11 astronauts. It appears this camera had a mechanical shutter with a fixed shutter speed of 1/250 s. Aperture dial goes from F/2.8 to F/22; the instructions say to use 5.6 in shadow and 11 in sun. Anyway, there’s no way you can capture any star with such short exposure time.

If it weren’t for the fixed shutter speed, this camera would be perfectly capable of capturing the milky way, if it is carefully shielded from sunlight and stray light from the surroundings and fixed on a tripod (which the Apollo astronauts didn’t have either, as far as I know).

I’m not even sure why they’d have bothered to do so. The picture would look absolutely identical to one taken from earth’s surface. The Moon’s orbit around the earth is about 0.25% of the Earth’s around the sun. So even if you happened to have pictures from the moon six months apart and at full moon time, you’d only get that percentage change in your parallax measurements.

70mm for the moon cameras

Yes, it’d be like trying to get a better picture of the moon by standing on your tippy-toes. It’s just not far enough to make any real difference.

I don’t think we could see the Milky Way from Los Angeles even back then, maybe the Hollywood scriptwriters didn’t realize it was there and so didn’t include it in any of the episode plots.


You don’t think the lack of an atmosphere might make a better photo?

And, a shot of the moon surface with the Milky Way setting would be way cool (except the exposure wouldn’t work…).

Yeah, it isn’t that the moon was closer to the Milky Way, it just didn’t have that problem of atmospheric refraction. This was 20 years before the Hubble telescope.

Still, when you just spent a decade and the equivalent of a trillion dollars trying to get to the moon, I can see why taking pictures of other random celestial bodies wasn’t priority number one.

Light absorption by the atmosphere is not big enough to be noticeable. Distortion by the atmosphere is only evident at high magnification (i.e. through a telescope). So no, it wouldn’t make an appreciably better photo of the milky way.

Light pollution is the issue.
Even in dark-sky locations, there is significant light pollution, and even if there were no artificial light sources, the atmosphere itself is a significant source of light:


I didn’t say the photos would be absolutely indistinguishable. But light pollution and airglow are minor effects if choose a good location on earth.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a milk way photo that didn’t have visible light pollution.

Here’s one example. Though you are probably right if you are talking about milky way photos that show the sky down to the horizon.


Since we’re part of the Milky Way, every photo we take is a photo of the Milky Way.

You can certainly take a far better picture of the Milky Way from Earth with a telescope that couldn’t be transported to the Moon via Apollo than you can with a scope that could be.

It would’ve been a complete waste of space, money, effort, etc. to send anything astronomically worthwhile up with the astronauts.