Fig. 1 - Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong
photographs Tranquility Base from some distance behind the
lunar module. (NASA: AS11-40-5961)
In Fig. 1 the
photographer's shadow falls directly away from him, but the shadows of
the rocks in the lower right fall at an angle, and some of them seem
to fall almost horizontally. Since the light rays from the sun are
parallel, the shadows must also be parallel. Clearly this was
photographed using several artificial lights.
See the detailed discussion about
perspective through the camera. While it's true that the shadows cast
by sunlit objects are roughly parallel over flat, level ground, it is
not true that they will always appear parallel when photographed. In
fact, they will appear parallel to the eye or camera only under very
Fig. 2 - Converging shadows of objects lit by the
sun. A combination of terrain and perspective produces
shadows in the upper right of the image that appear to lie
almost at right angles to the shadow of the photographer.
An easily-seen feature of perspective is its tendency to make
shadows appear more horizontal the farther
they are away from the viewer. This affects many of the photographs
conspiracists say show anomalous shadows.
Fig. 3 - The close-up surface camera resting at an
angle. Its handle casts the narrow foreground shadow in
Fig. 1. (NASA: AS11-40-5957)
In a real photograph,
perspective requires the shadow to point to the photographer's feet,
which must be underneath the horizontal center of the frame. [Colin
Rourke (Aulis PDF), after Jack White and John
Neither Rourke nor White and Costella before him offers any sort of
example, argument, computation, or line of reasoning for this
assertion. In fact there is no such "rule" of perspective. Figs. 2
and 4 were specifically taken to address this claim and show
photographer shadows that align with the left edge of the frame.
Yes, terrain and camera
rotation affect the appearance of the shadow, but the terrain here is
flat and the cammera cannot be rotated because it is fixed to the
"breastplate." [Rourke, Ibid.]
No, this famous photograph was taken from the rim of Little West
crater. The ground slopes downward and away to the left. What Rourke
inaccurately calls the "breastplate" is the RCU, the remote control
unit for the space suit equipment. Contrary to popular belief, it
hung loosely from the backpack straps on two hooks. There was ample
play in the mounting hardware to aim the camera.
explain the extreme angle of the shadow at bottom center.
Probably not, but in analyzing photographs one cannot presume that
the object casting it is perfectly vertical. Objects will only cast
parallel shadows if they themselves are parallel along the line of
illumination. As seen in Fig. 3, which was taken just prior to
Fig. 1, the close-up surface camera, whose handle is casting the
shadow in Fig. 1, is tilted at an angle.
There is a peculiar
halo around the shadow of the astronaut's head. This is obviously a
"hot spot" caused by studio light meant to emphasize the
It would be strange to introduce such an artificial lighting
scenario in a photograph intended to depict a natural circumstance.
In fact the "halo" is the response of the textured lunar surface to a
phase angle of zero. At that point in the photograph, the
photographer is looking right down the direction from which the light
is coming, hence his shadow. The shadows of objects -- rocks,
craters, grains of dust -- are being hidden by the objects
This, instead, confirms that sunlight is the only significant
source of light in this photograph. You do not get such
phase-dependent effects from studio lighting of any kind.
Fig. 4 - An approximation of Fig. 1 reproduced on
earth. The surface is six-month-old asphalt concrete. Note
the shadows of rocks placed by the photographer at upper
right and the shadows of the nearby cars.
Figures 4 and 5 depict a rough reconstruction of Fig. 1, photographed
using only sunlight on a reasonably flat and level surface. (It is
obvious that the surface in Fig. 1 is neither flat nor level.) The
sun elevation was approximately 12°, or approximately 3°
higher than at Tranquility Base.
Fig. 5 - The same photo as Fig. 4 modified to amplify
the contrast. This has the effect of darkening shadows in
order to better approximate the stark shadows of the lunar
surface. Note the halo around the shadow of the
Fig. 5 has been modified by adjusting the contrast digitally.
This artificially amplifies the difference between light and shadow.
Because scenes on Earth are also lit by light scattered by the
atmosphere, it is impossible to duplicate exactly on Earth using only
sunlight the lighting conditions on the moon. This contrast-enhancing
technique gives more visual emphasis to shadows cast directly by the
sun and de-emphasizes the effect of scattered light. It is not
intended to exactly duplicate sunlighting on the moon.
Notwithstanding the inaccuracy of the approximation, the same
optical principles produce a "halo" around the photographer in Fig. 5,
for the same reason. The roadway is textured according to normal
asphalt concrete construction, and at low sun angles the shadows cast
by elements of that texture have a cumulative effect that is
increasingly visible as phase angle increases. At a phase angle of
0°, none of those shadows can be seen, and the cumulative effect
is that of a zone of increased brilliance.
It's not just an optical illusion. There actually is more
lighting reaching the camera from that part of the surface than from
other parts. This is the "zero phase angle effect" which renders the
full moon four times brighter than a half moon, as seen from earth.
The camera is tilted downward in Figs. 4 and 5 more than in
Fig. 1. In Fig. 1 the optical axis is at a shallower angle than the
illumination angle. In Figs. 4 and 5 the optical axis is deeper than
the illumination angle. Nevertheless a reasonably representative set
of lines of sight can be correlated between the photos.