Take the 2-minute tour ×
Space Exploration Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for spacecraft operators, scientists, engineers, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Often I see small crosses on space pictures like this.

Armstrong on the Moon

They are regularly spaced, thin and black. What are them? What's their purpose?

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

up vote 18 down vote accepted

These crosshair marks are called registration marks and are produced by the camera optics.

These marks ensure that the exact geometry of the image (and succesive angle/distance measurements) are preserved despite deformation of the negative, or deformations during image processing such as scanning or printing to paper.

If you are taking images on the moon, you'd better preserve the most information intact.

The same techniques are used in aerial images for cartography.

share|improve this answer

Expanding on the answer of @Juancho, the marks are also called reticles or fiducials. They are engraved into a thin, optically perfect piece of glass that is placed just in front of the film in the astronauts camera. (You remember film, that long piece of cellophane coated with Jello that was ... But I digress). When a picture is taken, the image of the fiducial is recorded on the film along with the image of the lunar landscape. If the film is distorted during subsequent handling or processing, the distortion can be detected and eliminated by applying a transformation to the image that moves each fiducial back to its the correct position.

The fact that these crosses appear to go behind some bright objects on the lunar surface has been cited by Apollo deniers as evidence of the great conspiracy...

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.