Apollo Investigation

Why is the Sun so Big?

Investigating the nature of the 'sun' in the Apollo lunar surface images

Apollo 17 example

An Apollo 17 astronaut takes a panoramic sequence of still images on the Moon and photographs the Sun. The image below at left is from such a sequence:

Is this really the Sun? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ........ . and is this really the Earth above the flag?

The three small 'blobs' in the left picture are lens flares – the field of view (49.2° side, 66° diagonal) is exactly the same in each photograph.

These images were taken on the same roll (magazine 134/B) by a Hasselblad Lunar Surface Camera, fitted with a 60mm Carl Zeiss Biogon lens, photographed onto 70mm color film.

It is a fact that no matter whether viewed from the Earth or the Moon, the Sun appears to be virtually the same size in the sky. The reasons for this are twofold:

1) the Sun is approx 93 million miles away from the Earth and Moon;
2) the Earth and the Moon are relatively close together.

Therefore, as the Sun appears to match the size of the Moon to produce a total eclipse (when viewed from Earth), and as the Earth is 3.66 times LARGER than the Moon – when viewed from the Moon, the Sun must appear 3.66 times smaller than the Earth.

After enhancing the image from the panorama by adjusting the levels, more detail of the ‘sun’ structure is revealed.

enhanced CU
AS17-134-20410 – close up section
(Please note: given the 'disappearance' of reticles/cross hairs against objects far less bright than the Sun, the reticles should not be visible in the above image. Moreover, the left hand reticle is doubled/distorted.)

Why does the 'sun' have a hot-spot in the centre of it?

It is very apparent that the brightness varies considerably across the disc. In fact it has a 'hot-spot' in the central area similar to those found in other Apollo images (see for example Further Findings). It is difficult to regard the ‘sun’ in this image as a photograph of the Sun as we know it.

Photos AS17-134-20384 and 134-20410 were taken only 26 frames apart. Working with the full areas of both pictures at high resolution, and without changing any relative sizes, we cut out the image of the ‘earth’ from 20384 and placed copies of it over the image of the ‘sun’ in 20410:

20410 and 20384 full width

AS17-134-20410 and 134-20384 sun/earths combined, full width of combined images

sun/earths CU

AS17-134-20410 and 134-20384 sun/earths combined – close up

As previously stated, the Earth should appear several times LARGER than the Sun if these images really were taken on the Moon.

But, incredibly, in this imagery the situation is reversed. The ‘earth’ is not just smaller than the ‘sun’ – it is SIX TIMES smaller than the ‘sun’. A conclusion also reached by photo analyst Jack White.

The ‘earth’ may be the correct relative size for the scene depicted in 134-20384, but the ‘sun’ is most certainly far too large in 134-20410 and is therefore a very strange-looking Sun.

Some people may wish to argue that the hot-spot in the centre is actually the Sun. But even if this zone is considered to be such, it nevertheless extends well over the diameter of the 'earth' and is still at least four times too large.

20410 sun/earths

AS17-134-20410 and 134-20384 – light source further enhanced revealing more central detail

In DARK MOON: Apollo and the Whistle-Blowers we stated that the astronauts’ visors reflected exceptionally large light sources. Below are the two examples we presented to illustrate the point:

visor reflections

Frames from Apollo TV coverage

A convex (an outwardly curved surface) always considerably reduces the size of whatever is being reflected. If this large bright reflection was the Sun, given its distance from the Moon, it would be barely visible in a visor – nothing more than a tiny pinprick of light.

Yet in these examples the convex visors are reflecting a very LARGE ‘sun’ – which indicates the use of a huge artificial light source in close proximity.

So what might an exceptionally huge artificial light source look like?


Superlight concept

The above illustration is how an artificial super-light might have been assembled from banks of smaller lights as we originally envisioned it back in 1995.

However, as there are now many more high-resolution Apollo pictures available for examination and analysis, and following enhancement of a number of ‘sun’ images, we suggest that the light source was probably more like this:

revised superlight

The light source may have been designed to be a large concave reflector with the primary source(s) placed centrally and deployed in such a manner as to produce a very broad, single source of light. The resultant shadows would inevitably be softer or less sharply defined than with true sunlight.

There are several possibilities as to how such a light source was constructed. A super-large lens array may have been used in the rig’s design to focus the light. Alternatively the light source might have incorporated lighting units that were the forerunners of today’s HMI projectors. Here is one from a long-established Hollywood manufacturer:


Originally designed for lighting deep into large musical sets, these parallel, controllable light sources have come full circle from the heyday of black and white musicals to their current day use for creating stunning parallel beam effects. The New Type 8341 12,000 Watt 36" HMI MoleBeam Projector is designed to produce a streaming ray of light in daylight (5600º Kelvin). This unit projects a 36" parallel beam of light that can be spotted and flooded from -5º to +15º. Image and description Mole-Richardson Co. Inc.

Alternatively, here is another lighting rig design [images added 2019]:

Artificial sun

Lighting rig used to simulate sunlight on the Moon for the HBO mini series, From the Earth to the Moon. It consisted of twenty 10K xenon arc lamps shining into a 6-foot convex mirror, which reflected the light onto the moonset. [HBO, 1999]

Whatever the actual construction of the Apollo superlight rig, it appears not to have been perfect as an artificial sun. There are noticeable hot-spots (or brighter areas) around shadows where the photographer has the 'sun' immediately behind him. An effect that can be seen in the centre of many Apollo photographs – here is an example:


Apollo photo with a hot-spot and 'fall off' in brightness towards the edge of the picture. Note also that all shadows converge to a point on the central axis of the image. See also the Apollo study Light from all sides.

So why is the ‘sun’ so big?

Because on a large set the lighting cannot be anything like as bright as the real Sun, a very large light source would have been necessary in order to obtain adequate coverage over the expansive ‘moonscape’. (The real Sun has an overall intensity that is so bright there are no such discernable variations in luminosity across the surface of the Sun’s disc, see also Jack White's studies.)

A rig – such as in the above illustration – would have required height adjustment capabilities to produce a variety of ‘sun’ angles, and the unit would have needed horizontal mobility as well.

If this was the type of light source used, is it any wonder that over the years many researchers have claimed that lighting in the Apollo photography is replete with anomalies and inconsistencies?

As the two images under discussion (134-20410 and 20384) were photographed so close together, it would be reasonable to conclude that taking the pictures just a few frames apart was an intentional exercise. An action planned by whistle-blowers to enable the future decoding of the way in which the Apollo images were actually created on the moon sets.

A few officials at NASA with the highest level clearances may have been aware of the problems regarding the ‘sun’ size at the time of the photographic sessions. Professional astronomers and cosmologists have opted to either remain silent on this issue, or were totally unaware of these sun-size discrepancies until now.

Aulis Online, 2007, updated 2019

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