Did any of the Apollo astronauts describe seeing the stars as they travelled between the Earth and the Moon?

If so, what was the magnitude of the dimmest stars they could see? Were they able to see any stars as they looked towards the Earth, or did its brightness prevent any stars from being seen?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Do you include the stars they saw through the sextant when they did IMU aligns, or are you only interested in out-the-window? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 28, 2020 at 23:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm mostly interested in the stars they saw out the window. $\endgroup$
    – Bob516
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 1:58

1 Answer 1


Yes. They did see stars. Here is an excerpt from the Apollo 11 Transcript.

02 23 59 20 CDR: Houston, it's been a real change for us. Now we are able to see stars again and recognize constellations for the first time on the trip. It's - the sky is full of stars. Just like the nightside of Earth. But all the way here, we have only been able to see stars occasionally and perhaps through the monocular, but not recognize any star patterns.

02 23 59 52 CC: I guess it has turned into night up there really, hasn't it ?

This happened when the Sun was eclipsed by the Moon. So it was essentially night for them. There is no atmosphere, and there is no bright light from the Sun (there was Earth-shine though) which meant seeing stars would've been incredibly easy.

Here's a picture of the Solar Corona (AS11-42-6179). The Sun is eclipsed by the Moon. This photograph was taken a few minutes prior to the conversation above with Armstrong and Capcom.

enter image description here

They did not see stars on the lunar surface, however. Nor could a camera pick up the stars given the camera exposure settings. The human eye does not have the dynamic range to see the lunar surface (or any surface reflecting light) and stars at the same time. Astronaut Dave Scott did see few bright stars on the lunar surface but only when standing in the shadow of the LM for some time with his visor up. It is certainly possible to see stars on the Moon as there is no atmosphere, but that would only be possible if they look into space with no reflected light like the lunar surface or glare in their Field of Vision (that's how the Far Ultraviolet Camera/Spectrograph took photographs of stars on the lunar surface in daytime). It would also take some time for their eyes to adjust.

Seeing stars was easy though at night in Earth Orbit, Lunar Orbit, or when the Sun was eclipsed.

If you want to see pictures of stars taken from the lunar surface, here is a short video showing some of the photographs of stars taken by the Far UV camera on Apollo 16.

  • $\begingroup$ It's a stretch but since the only current answer to Have any space stations experienced a total solar eclipse? asked in 2017 is from Gemini XXII and that was well received, you can probably add this as an answer there as well. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 3:26
  • $\begingroup$ It wouldn't be well received - the question specifies in the vicinity of Earth, and the question author commented "Even if I said it was the moon blocking out the sun, some smart Alec will bring up the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter" which should clarify that being near the moon doesn't count $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 5:30

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