The moon is a glorious sight. It has been one of my primary photographic goals ever since I acquired my telescope a little over a year ago, and it still is. It is a well-known but enigmatic sight, and when it is gleaming in all its splendor, man, is it spectacular!
The magnificent brightness that emanates from the moon is one thing that people have appreciated for centuries. But, what causes the moon to glow so brightly, and why is it so bright? Oh, yes, and the answers don’t involve cheese!
The moon reflects the sun, which gives an explanation for why it seems to glow. The moon’s surface is not exceptionally reflective. The moon’s brightness results from scattered sunlight that, depending on its orbital position, strikes it directly and then reflects back to Earth.
The brightness of the Moon depends on the phase it is in. Check out some of my astronomy images including one of the true colour Moon
There are several other reasons why the Moon glows, none of which have been proven. The most accepted theory is that it results from the solar wind that hits the moon’s surface and then bounces back.
In addition, the Moon is illuminated by light waves reflecting off the Earth, which then scatter in all directions. These light waves bounce back after reflecting off the atmosphere of the Earth.
How Reflective is the Surface of the Moon?
The moon only reflects between 3 and 12 percent of the light that hits it, according to Livescience.com. It is not as reflective as many would have us believe, therefore. We see the moon with varying amounts of it illuminated by the sun due to the moon’s position in relation to the sun during its many phases. The illumination varies because the angle at which the sun strikes the moon similarly varies from our vantage point on Earth.
The moon has several features that could reflect light in various ways. The Lunar Highlands are the regions with the most brightness, whereas other areas are darker and reflect less light.
The Moon’s surface absorbs a lot of light despite being incredibly bright and also reflects a portion of it into space. Moreover, sunlight reflected off the Earth, particularly the oceans, shines on the moon occasionally. Although this only marginally affects the Moon’s brightness, it has an effect on the overall brightness of the Moon.
The highly reflective surface is also responsible for some of the scattered lighting in those photographs you sometimes see of the astronauts which many conspiracy theorists say were faked.
This article was written by Karl Perera. He is an enthusiastic astrophotographer, writer, and teacher. You can get in touch with him here.