• Photographer Andrew McCarthy captured an image of the Moon that is quite literally “impossible.”
  • By stitching together over a dozen individual images, McCarthy created a photo that shows the lunar surface in high contrast.
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When you gaze up at the Moon at night — weather permitting, of course — you’re treated to a lovely sight. The Moon is awesome, and it has a whole lot of personality. Covered in craters that tell a story of billions of years of impacts both large and small. The particularly gorgeous image you see above is that same Moon, shot in a way that reveals every nook and cranny in high contrast.

The photo is, as its creator puts it, “impossible.” It was shot using a technique that maximizes the contrast of each tiny imperfection on its surface, making for a glorious, surreal image.

As LiveScience reports, the image is the creation of photographer Andrew McCarthy. While it appears to be a single capture, it’s actually the result of many nights of work and over a dozen individual photographs.

“This moon might look a little funny to you, and that’s because it is an impossible scene,” McCarthy writes on Instagram. “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.”

When sunlight strikes the Moon, the edges of the light and dark side show the greatest amount of detail and texture. What McCarthy did here is painstakingly stitched together over a dozen individual images, cutting out everything but the area of the surface that caught the light at the perfect angle.

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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

The result is an image that appears almost 2D, as though the Moon is a flat disk with craters popping up and catching light from the Sun. It was surely a lot of work, but it was definitely worth it.

Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering breaking news and trends in VR, wearables, smartphones, and future tech. Most recently, Mike served as Tech Editor at The Daily Dot, and has been featured in USA Today, Time.com, and countless other web and print outlets. His love of reporting is second only to his gaming addiction.