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Photographers capture 'ridiculously detailed image' of the moon for NASA's Artemis 1 launch

You've never seen the moon quite like this. 

Two astrophotographers have captured a spectacular photo of the moon with a mind-blowing resolution of 174 megapixels. The photo, called "The Hunt for Artemis," is a tribute to NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission, which is scheduled to launch atop the massive Space Launch System megarocket on Monday (Aug. 29). The image was taken by photographers Andrew McCarthy and Connor Matherne, both of whom shared the image and its close-ups on Instagram this week (McCarthy is @cosmic_background (opens in new tab) while Matherne is @cosmic.speck (opens in new tab))

A post shared by Andrew McCarthy (@cosmic_background) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

"For this image, I teamed up with talented fellow astrophotographer @cosmic.speck to create the most ridiculously detailed moon image we could come up with," McCarthy wrote on Instagram (opens in new tab). "The result is this 174 megapixel shot."

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"This is the highest resolution shot of the moon I have ever taken," Matherne added on Instagram (opens in new tab). "I captured the color data while @cosmic.background captured the details. Combined, we ended up with an incredibly detailed photo of our lunar neighbor in stunning color."

The image is a combination of more than 200,000 images by McCarthy (taken from Arizona) and 50,000 by Matherne (taken from Louisiana), and took a year to complete, according to PetaPixel. McCarthy said Matherne, who specializes is space colors, was responsible for the amazing hues seen in the image. 


Related: NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission: Live updates
More: Moon viewing guide: What to look for on the lunar surface

A post shared by Connor Matherne (@cosmic.speck) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

"The color in this image is real, but presented with increased saturation so it is easily visible to our eyes," McCarthy wrote on Reddit (opens in new tab). "The reddish tones demonstrate areas rich in iron and feldspar, while the bluish areas are spots where the regolith is rich in titanium. Oxidation from the Earth's atmosphere makes the colors appear like they do."

McCarthy wrote that the image is dedicated to NASA and the teams behind the Artemis 1 mission, NASA's first uncrewed test flight that will launch an Orion spacecraft around the moon on the brand new Space Launch System. 

"In 9 days, a human-rated lunar rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida, demonstrating our capability for manned lunar missions for the first time in 50 years," McCarthy wrote in his Instagram. 

Artemis 1 is the debut flight for NASA's Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the moon by 2025. It will fly a 42-day mission that will take it to the moon, enter lunar orbit and then return to Earth in early October. While the mission is uncrewed, it is carrying experiments to test the space radiation environment on astronauts ahead of NASA's crewed Artemis 2 flight around the moon in 2024. 

The mission is also carrying 10 small cubesats to study the moon, space technology and the solar system. They will be deployed from the Space Launch System rocket's upper stage after it reaches space.

You can follow Space.com's mission coverage with our Artemis 1 live updates page. Tune in for a live Artemis 1 webcast on Aug. 29 to watch the launch. Liftoff is set for 8:33 a.m. EDT (1233 GMT), with NASA's webcast to begin at 6:30 a.m. EDT (1030 GMT).

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Tariq Malik
Editor-in-Chief

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.