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Moon Photography Tips from Astrophotographers: A Visual Guide

Shooting the Full Moon

Imelda B. Joson and Edwin L. Aguirre

Owing to its brightness and large apparent size, the full moon is an easy, favorite target for budding lunar photographers. The moon is an awesome skywatching target in the night sky. But there are some tricks to snap good photos. Here, astrophotographers Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre provide some basic tips to capturing the moon's photo essence. They captured this cropped view of the full moon with a Canon EOS 20D digital SLR camera at the prime focus of a Takahashi FS-78 refracting telescope (630 millimeters in focal length). The exposure time was 1/1250 second at ISO 200.

Prime-Focus Photography

Imelda B. Joson and Edwin L. Aguirre

To attach your DSLR camera (without the lens) to the telescope's eyepiece focuser, you need a T-ring that matches to your particular camera's lens mount and a prime-focus adapter (lower right) with male T-threads and a standard 1¼-inch barrel that can be inserted into the focuser. You'll also need an electronic "cable release," or remote trigger/controller (lower left), so you can operate the camera shutter while minimizing vibrations.

Prime-Focus Telescope and Camera Setup

Imelda B. Joson and Edwin L. Aguirre

Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre use a custom-made, machined-aluminum adapter to attach their DSLR camera to the Takahashi FS-78 refractor. This is the setup they used to obtain many of the moon photos accompanying their article.

The September 27th Total Lunar Eclipse

Imelda B. Joson and Edwin L. Aguirre

The moon's vivid, reddish orange hue during the total eclipse on September 27 is recorded in this prime-focus photo taken by Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre with the Takahashi FS-78 refractor and Canon EOS 7D DSLR camera (the exposure time was 1 second at ISO 3200). The picture shows the actual size of the moon's image in the camera frame. The tiny white specks visible below the moon are background stars.

Venus-Mars-Moon Conjunction, February 20, 2015

Imelda B. Joson and Edwin L. Aguirre

In this cropped photo taken by Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre on February 20, Venus appears as a brilliant "star" on the left, with dimmer Mars above it. Note the nice "earthshine" illuminating the moon's dark side. Although the trio looked close together as viewed along our line of sight, the celestial bodies were actually situated far apart in space. Venus was 134 million miles from Earth at the time, while Mars was 203 million miles away. The moon was much, much closer — a "mere" 225,000 miles away. Imelda and Edwin used a Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera at the prime focus of a Takahashi FC-60 refractor to capture this winter scene.

Eyepiece-Projection Photography

Imelda B. Joson and Edwin L. Aguirre

In addition to the T-ring, for the eyepiece-projection method you'll need a special adapter tube (shown at lower right) that holds the eyepiece in front of the camera. Be sure to securely lock the eyepiece in place inside the tube with the thumbscrew to prevent it from falling out and damaging your camera mirror and/or sensor. Some adapter tubes, like the one shown in the photo, allow you to vary the size of the moon's image on the sensor by adjusting the position of the eyepiece inside the sliding tube.

Waning Crescent Moon

Imelda B. Joson and Edwin L. Aguirre

Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre used the eyepiece-projection method to obtain this uncropped snapshot of the moon before dawn on November 4, just a day past its last-quarter phase. They used the Takahashi FS-78 refractor fitted with an 18-millimeter eyepiece and a Canon EOS 7D camera for this 1/60-second exposure at ISO 2500.

Rugged Southern Lunar Highlands

Imelda B. Joson and Edwin L. Aguirre

Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre were able to zoom in on the moon's surface by switching the eyepiece in their Takahashi FS-78 refractor from 18 mm. to 7.5 mm. This close-up view of the moon's rugged, densely cratered southern highlands, along the terminator or boundary of the moon's day and night sides, features the 225-kilometer-wide Clavius (largest crater at far left). To its lower right is the crater Maginus (163 km), partly hidden in shadow. The smooth, dark lunar "sea" below right of center is called Mare Nubium (Latin for "Sea of Clouds").

Lunar Crater Copernicus

Imelda B. Joson and Edwin L. Aguirre

The most prominent feature in this photo is the 93-km-wide Copernicus crater (left of center). To its upper left is Kepler (32 km) and to its right is the mountain range Montes Carpatus. Note the extensive, bright-ray system that radiates from Copernicus and Kepler. Directly below Copernicus is Eratosthenes (58 km), with its well-defined rim and central peak. Photographic gear used: Takahashi FS-78 refractor, 7.5-mm eyepiece and Canon EOS 7D camera.

Copernicus and Sinus Iridum

Imelda B. Joson and Edwin L. Aguirre

This view shows the craters Copernicus and Eratosthenes at far left and the wide, semi-circular feature at right called Sinus Iridum, or the "Bay of Rainbows." Sinus Iridum is actually a flooded crater 260 km. across and is bordered by the mountain range Montes Jura. This, together with the mountain ranges Montes Carpatus (adjacent to Copernicus) and Montes Apenninus (running alongside Eratosthenes), outlines the boundaries of the lunar sea Mare Imbrium ("Sea of Rains"). Photographic gear used: Takahashi FS-78 refractor, 7.5-mm eyepiece and Canon EOS 7D camera.

Mare Imbrium and Sinus Iridum

Imelda B. Joson and Edwin L. Aguirre

This photo shows more of Mare Imbrium and Sinus Iridum, as well as the craters Plato (below center, with its smooth floor and 101-km-wide rim) and Archimedes (left of center, partially hidden in shadow). Directly above Archimedes is the lone, sharp-rimmed crater Timocharis (34 km). Photographic gear used: Takahashi FS-78 refractor, 7.5-mm eyepiece and Canon EOS 7D camera.

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