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Thread: The color of the Moon...

  1. #1
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    The color of the Moon...

    This may sound a bit amateurish, so I will admit that I am one. What color is the moon?

    I understand the varying colors of the moon as seen from earth through the atmosphere, but I am not talking about as seen from earth. I know the very thin atmosphere on the moon (similar in density to the upper atmosphere where the space stations orbit) causes overexposure to film. I also have little doubt that different places on the moon would have different materials, thus colors, in different areas.

    That being said, I have to admit I was a little shocked to see the pictures from the Chinese Jade Rabbit displaying a reddish brown moon (no stars=don't care. Moon glare explains that for me). NASA always spoon-fed me nice pretty gray/silver images that were supposed to be full color, and I swallowed it down without much thought. I have since done a little digging and found some references to a tan and brown moonscape from some Apollo astronaughts. Also, some guys claiming true full color pictures of the moon with anything from bright gold to greens and blues and sadly scarce credentials. And, of coarse, a mass of conspiracy theorists purporting everything from gold deposits to glass domes.

    So, I need a little help is all. What color is the moon? On my salary, I'll never get to set foot there to see for myself.

    I'd love some scientific answers, but won't shun the hoax enthusiasts. I believe we got there, but I love the stories.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Head of Brando View Post
    This may sound a bit amateurish, so I will admit that I am one. What color is the moon?

    I understand the varying colors of the moon as seen from earth through the atmosphere, but I am not talking about as seen from earth. I know the very thin atmosphere on the moon (similar in density to the upper atmosphere where the space stations orbit) causes overexposure to film.
    I never have heard of any such thing. Do you have any references?
    I also have little doubt that different places on the moon would have different materials, thus colors, in different areas.

    That being said, I have to admit I was a little shocked to see the pictures from the Chinese Jade Rabbit displaying a reddish brown moon (no stars=don't care. Moon glare explains that for me). NASA always spoon-fed me nice pretty gray/silver images that were supposed to be full color, and I swallowed it down without much thought. I have since done a little digging and found some references to a tan and brown moonscape from some Apollo astronaughts. Also, some guys claiming true full color pictures of the moon with anything from bright gold to greens and blues and sadly scarce credentials. And, of coarse, a mass of conspiracy theorists purporting everything from gold deposits to glass domes.

    So, I need a little help is all. What color is the moon? On my salary, I'll never get to set foot there to see for myself.

    I'd love some scientific answers, but won't shun the hoax enthusiasts. I believe we got there, but I love the stories.
    In Apollo photographs in which the astronauts' space suits looked neutral white, the lunar surface looked brownish gray. My guess is that the first batch of pictures from the Chinese mission came through with the color balance maladjusted. An analogy was the first picture we got from the Viking lander on Mars, in which the sky near the horizon looked blue. After some adjustments were made using a standard color wheel on the spacecraft, that same sky was pink. That turned out to be consistent with the dusty conditions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hornblower View Post
    I never have heard of any such thing. Do you have any references?
    I apologize if I am misinformed on this. When I said I did a little digging, I meant very shallow digging. I was surfing the web and now cannot not find my reference for the overexposure. From what I remember, it was talking about moon glare and shutter speeds. I am not very familiar with photography.

    If you are talking about the atmosphere of the moon, perhaps exosphere is a better term. It's about 100 molecules per cubic centimeter, I believe, and if I remember correctly that's from outgassing on the lunar surface.

    I am always receptive to being educated, so if I have misspoke, please enlighten me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hornblower View Post
    ...My guess is that the first batch of pictures from the Chinese mission came through with the color balance maladjusted...After some adjustments were made using a standard color wheel on the spacecraft, that same sky was pink....
    That would make more sense than the conspiracy theories I've read. *heh*

    Is that why some of the wires that appear blue in Mars rovers when photographed on earth appear red when shown from Mars?

    I appreciate the info, thank-you for responding to my first thread. In the future, I will endeavor to keep track of my source material.

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    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LR...olor_moon.html has some interesting shots from NASA showing the tones (although likely exaggerated a little as these are band composites from a hyperspectral imager). The best way to get a 'realistic' picture of the Moon's colours would be to get a hyperspectral image and run it though a human visual system model.

    Colour is tough - cameras and so on don't tend to match the human visual system all that accurately in their response. Especially since the eye has a less linear response to brightness than them, so a few bright areas in a scene can wash out the rest more than you would see if you looked at it. It also varies in its response to colour at different brightness levels (which is why by eye the Orion nebula and other dim diffuse objects can look quite green)

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    The moon visible in the night sky is essentially as brightly lit as the ground on a sunny day here on Earth. Its color appears light because there are no more lightly colored objects for comparison. Overall, it's actually pretty dark gray, with what subtle coloration there is being washed out under typical viewing conditions. There are plenty of non-overexposed images of the lunar surface with astronauts in white suits for comparison. It also varies with lighting...from some angles, you'll see orange-brown tinted light shining through tiny glass beads formed by meteor impacts. At other angles, you'll see un-tinted glare from the surface of those beads. Also, the color is not uniform, it varies across the surface. The Apollo missions found some distinctly colored patches of ground:
    http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/...-137-20990.jpg

    And the first photos that got put online were apparently pictures of a projection screen at a news conference. So you have the probe's camera color calibration, the projector's calibration, the room's lighting, the photographer's camera calibration, whatever their software did to "fix" the color of a landscape image...the results were predictably not very good.

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    Using modern standards of visual measurement, photography, etc., what is the color of the Moon as seen from the ground on Earth? Is there a range of colors, excluding the reddening from being near the horizon, smoke, etc.?

    Example: I have a B&W photo of the Moon that I wish to properly colorize. What color do I use as an overlay?

    I ask because it often seems the Moon's darker areas (the maria), when the Moon is seen in daylight, are as blue as the rest of the sky.

    When seen at night, is the Moon actually different shades of gray, or (since light reflects from it form the Sun) is there another faint color? To me it seems VERY slightly yellow.
    Last edited by Roger E. Moore; 2018-Nov-01 at 04:35 PM. Reason: added more
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    Using modern standards of visual measurement, photography, etc., what is the color of the Moon as seen from the ground on Earth? Is there a range of colors, excluding the reddening from being near the horizon, smoke, etc.?

    Example: I have a B&W photo of the Moon that I wish to properly colorize. What color do I use as an overlay?

    I ask because it often seems the Moon's darker areas (the maria), when the Moon is seen in daylight, are as blue as the rest of the sky.

    When seen at night, is the Moon actually different shades of gray, or (since light reflects from it form the Sun) is there another faint color? To me it seems VERY slightly yellow.
    You appear to be seeing it pretty accurately. It is slightly yellower overall than the sunlight which is illuminating. The daytime appearance is deceptive because there is blue sky color of similar luminance superimposed on it. The same material up close would be brownish gray, somewhat like well weathered asphalt highway paving.

    There are reports of shades of red being seen on some parts of the Moon, but it is very subtle and not at all easy for most of us to see.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hornblower View Post
    There are reports of shades of red being seen on some parts of the Moon, but it is very subtle and not at all easy for most of us to see.
    Do you mean transient lunar phenomena, like gas coming out of the Aristarchus area? Or something else?
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
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    Was just thinking, there are times when the Moon, when full, has a "silver dollar" look to it, with no color except a strong, bright white glow. The mix of white and the gray from the maria make it silvery.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    I recall reading that the Apollo astronauts found it very difficult to describe the Moon's surface color, one of them saying the color changed depending on which direction you looked and where the Sun was.

    Did find some good references (below) for surface color, at least. Needed some thoughts about the yellowish tint the Moon often seems to have when I see it from the ground.

    ===========

    https://www.airspacemag.com/daily-pl...rth-112009132/

    The Many Colors of the Moon (and Earth)
    Seen up close, is the lunar surface gray? Brown? How about “a cheery rose color?”

    By Tony Reichhardt, airspacemag.com, July 23, 2009

    ========================

    https://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/apollocolor.html

    Apollo Photography and the Color of the Moon

    by Michael Light
    Copyright 2000 by Michael Light and Eric M. Jones. All rights reserved.

    ========================

    https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/L...olor_moon.html

    Color of the Moon (Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter)
    09.10.10

    ========================

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com...ooks-that-way/

    The Moon Is Not Black And White, It Just Looks That Way
    Hands up if you think about the Moon in black and white? Yes – well, you’re not alone, and there’s actually good reason for you to, because the surface of the Moon is nearly devoid of strong colors in comparison to what we’re used to here on Earth.

    By Caleb A. Scharf on September 20, 2013
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Head of Brando View Post
    I know the very thin atmosphere on the moon (similar in density to the upper atmosphere where the space stations orbit) causes overexposure to film.
    Incorrect. Atmosphere...or a lack thereof...is not a significant factor in proper exposure of an image. If an image is generally overexposed, the camera's settings were not appropriate for the scene's lighting conditions. If certain areas of the scene are overexposed, then the settings may be incorrect and/or the scene's lighting conditions may have exceed the dynamic range of the film/sensor.

    [QUOTE]NASA always spoon-fed me nice pretty gray/silver images that were supposed to be full color, and I swallowed it down without much thought. I have since done a little digging and found some references to a tan and brown moonscape from some Apollo astronaughts.[/COLOR]

    The correct spelling is "astronauts". I only mention it because the term, "astronaughts" is sometimes used by folks who come here with conspiracy theories that dispute the Moon landings. "Astronots" is another.

    As for color, here are a couple of links you might find helpful:

    Apollo Photography and the Color of the Moon—from the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal, this short article describes some of the color issues with the photographic record.

    Apollo Lunar Surface Journal—Apollo 17 Image Library, beginning with image AS17-137-20987, shows several closeup photos of some orange soil that got the astronauts and lunar geologists pretty excited.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    I recall reading that the Apollo astronauts found it very difficult to describe the Moon's surface color, one of them saying the color changed depending on which direction you looked and where the Sun was.
    Dry heiligenschein was responsible for a lot of that - the brightness of the lunar surface varied dramatically according to the angle between the viewing axis and the sun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    Incorrect. Atmosphere...or a lack thereof...is not a significant factor[...]
    Drat. Suckered by a zombie thread. Still, the links may be of interest to some.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    Drat. Suckered by a zombie thread. Still, the links may be of interest to some.
    They are, thank you.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
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    Don't forget about the Moon's color during a new moon. The B-V value is bumped with a little more blueness (-0.15) due to illumination by the Earth. This helps astronomers -- well-known to be incredibly clever -- determine the B-V value of the Earth (B-V =0.44). [From Here]

    Quote Originally Posted by Grant
    Dry heiligenschein...
    I guess that makes sense as reflection off water would be different, no doubt. "Heligenschein" sounds a little like an ice cream name, so does it have more flavors than dry and wet?
    Last edited by George; 2018-Nov-01 at 08:45 PM.
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  16. #16
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    Just wet and dry. Wet from beads of water (often dew); dry from dust or dry vegetation. The dry version can be quite striking over dry grass on the African savanna. I once had an interesting discussion with a bush pilot about it - he'd been aloft during a partial solar eclipse, and noticed that the bright patch of dry heiligenschein, which he was used to seeing around the shadow of his plane, had assumed the crescent shape of the partially eclipsed sun. (I think the crescent would have been rotated 180 degrees compared to the shape of the visible sun, but he couldn't recall that detail.)

    Grant Hutchison
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    Note:
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    Quote Originally Posted by Head of Brando View Post
    This may sound a bit amateurish, so I will admit that I am one. What color is the moon?
    The Moon has an albedo of about 0.12 - 0.136.

    That's about the same as old, weathered asphalt.
    So, the Moon is a medium to dark grey.

    There are confounding factors; among them, because of the nature of the Moon's surface, the light is strongly directional.

    And no, it;s not amateurish at all; it's quite insightful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Head of Brando View Post

    I understand the varying colors of the moon as seen from earth through the atmosphere, but I am not talking about as seen from earth. I know the very thin atmosphere on the moon (similar in density to the upper atmosphere where the space stations orbit) causes overexposure to film. I also have little doubt that different places on the moon would have different materials, thus colors, in different areas.
    One issue that I think is probably quite important is that the colors we perceive are not the real colors. We "see" things in different ways depending on the context. In other words, what our retinas detect is heavily processed by our visual cortex, so that we see things quite differently depending on whether the background is light or dark, for example. That's one of the reasons that we can easily see a person's face against a bright sky while a camera (whose processing is not quite up to ours) cannot, and also one of the reasons that there are optical illusions like these.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    The Moon has an albedo of about 0.12 - 0.136.

    That's about the same as old, weathered asphalt.
    So, the Moon is a medium to dark grey.
    Wait, an albedo of 0.12 implies a grey color? Couldn't it be a pinkish?

    ETA: or maybe rosewood

    https://digitalsynopsis.com/design/c...mes-of-shades/
    There are confounding factors; among them, because of the nature of the Moon's surface, the light is strongly directional.

    And no, it;s not amateurish at all; it's quite insightful.
    Last edited by grapes; 2018-Nov-02 at 02:52 PM. Reason: ETA

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