Chang'e 3 now on the Lunar surface has imaged the Earth. Is it possible for that same camera to take a time exposure and show us the stars?

  • $\begingroup$ It is equipped with a UV telescope, LUT to observe stars among other objects. $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 7:56

1 Answer 1


Looking through this image archive, they haven't taken photos where stars are the main subject. All photos in that archive were done in daylight.

Chang'e 3 photo of Earth

I've removed the processed photo - I found 2 bright pixels in the shadowed region of the Earth, so those can't possibly be stars.

Chang'e 3 hibernates during the lunar night. It's not clear if the probe contains an RTG that can provide electrical power, or if it has radionucleide heaters only.

The majority of power provided by the RTG is used for the heaters and a small fraction is used to sustain the lander's Lunar Night Sleep Mode in which all systems except for crucial control and housekeeping systems are shut down.

I tried to find out a bit more about the camera:

Three panoramic cameras are installed on the lander, facing different directions to allow the lander to acquire images of the lunar terrain surrounding the landing site and take photos of the rover as it departs the landing site. The cameras can take still images as well as video. Exact technical details for the cameras were not released. (emphasis mine)

Camera technology tested on previous missions that is employed on Chang’e 3 include auto-exposure, focus adjustments, high-speed compression of color imagery and static gray image, and sub-sampling methods.

I also found a paper (PDF) that analyzes the performance of the cameras on Yutu in more detail. It doesn't mention exposure times specifically. It does say the camera has both manual and automatic exposure modes. The PDF contains a few graphs that show camera performance, these have an X-axis marked 0-1200 with a label of "0.5 ms". I think that means the X-axis shows an exposure time of 0-0.6 seconds, but I'm not entirely sure. If this is true, the camera has been designed to use exposures of up to 0.6 s, which sounds long enough to see a few stars.

Yutu camera performance


More information on the Chang'e 3 image archive can be found in these blog posts:

The archive itself is here but is available in Chinese only.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The bright spots in the image are most likely hot pixels of the image sensor and no real stars. Easy to spot: Most are fully saturated colors of single pixels. A star should show up as a slightly blurry spot of several pixels due to the finite resolution of the optics. $\endgroup$
    – asdfex
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ Good point, I've removed the photo. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ Looking at the camera specs, do you think it is capable of imaging the stars? Daylight should make no difference to the camera as long as it is not looking at the Sun, stars should show up with a few seconds exposure time. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ It seems the Chinese space agency hasn't published details on the camera specs. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ Is that image archive still available? I can't seem to get a connection from where I am. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 2:40

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