Are there any images from the surface of the moon during lunar night? Preferably taken by Apollo astronauts, but otherwise by rovers etc showing "earthshine" on the lunar surface?

I found this example from Apollo 17, but it is from the CSM, and I think it's from before landing?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AS17-158-23902.jpg enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ No. For a time, night landings were in fact considered for the Sun for obvious reasons, but on the Moon they'd just leave scientists in the dark. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 10:55
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh: Uh... night time landings for the sun? How would that work? :-D $\endgroup$
    – DevSolar
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 12:38
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I guess that was Poe's law at work then. ;-) $\endgroup$
    – DevSolar
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ @DevSolar It would be too bright and hot to do it during the day. $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2023 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelRichardson Now that you mention it, of course you'd land on the sun at night... what was I thinking... 🙄🤪 $\endgroup$
    – DevSolar
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 19:58

2 Answers 2


Unfortunately, no.

All the Apollo missions took place during Lunar "day". Specifically, mission planners targeted landing times just after Lunar sunrise so that the sun's low angle would cast long shadows and simplify depth-perception and thus landing on the rough surface.

Here is a list of all the missions, and the angles of the sun above the horizon during them.

Night time missions were not seriously considered for multiple reasons:

  • No PR benefit: A large aim of the Apollo program was to show the world what the USA could do, and filming at night would've been difficult with the comparatively primitive camera equipment of the time.

  • Minimal science benefit. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any real advantages that a night-time moon mission would have, besides maybe investigating the thermal cycle that occurs and maybe some dawn/dusk exosphere observations. Apollo was big on samples

  • Engineering problems. Apollo missions occurred in ye olden times before we had power efficient illumination; specifically LEDs. Illuminating enough area to land and perform surface activities was outside of the power budget available to suits and ships at the time. Also, engineering the lander to withstand the temps of lunar night would've introduced additional problems

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    $\begingroup$ Not to mention the heating requirements for being at -130ºC for an extended period of time. (Obviously not all places on the moon have that temperature at night. But it's an estimate for the equatorial average temperature) $\endgroup$
    – Massagran
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Massagran since the moon doesn't have an atmosphere, I don't see how that's any different than the theoretically low temperature they would've had while not on the moon. $\endgroup$
    – Cubic
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 14:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Cubic Being in space, and being on the lit surface of the moon is kinda the same. Being on the dark side of the moon is different. $\endgroup$
    – Christian
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Cubic In open space, roughly half of the ship is warmed by direct sunlight. On the night side of the moon, the only heat the craft will receive is radiated from the lunar surface as it cools, and whatever minuscule amount it received from distant stars. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan_L
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Technophile: [citation needed] $\endgroup$
    – TonyK
    Commented May 19, 2023 at 0:12

The Moon has a cycle of 14 days of daylight (14 days of continuous sunlight) and 14 days of night (14 days of continuous dark and cold).

All the Apollo lunar missions landed when each mission site was in full daylight. The astronauts did not experience night on the Moon.

In late 1967, the Surveyor 5 Moon lander took 20 000 photos of its landing site over 4 Lunar days. None were taken during the night.

Surveyor 5 was, however, the most successful of the series so far. The lander returned 18,006 photos before lunar night descended on Sept. 24, 1967. Controllers successfully commanded the vehicle to take another 1,000 photographs during the second lunar day between Oct. 15 and Oct. 24, 1967, and the fourth lunar day in December. In total, 20,018 pictures were transmitted.

Similarly in 1968, Surveyor 7 only took photos during the day. After the first lunar day, where it took 20 000 photos,

Operation of the spacecraft was terminated 80 hours after sunset. The spacecraft was reactivated for the second lunar day on February 12, 1968, and operated until February 21, 1968.

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    $\begingroup$ One could mention more recent rovers also. Chang'e 3 and 4 are active on the moon right now, but Wikipedia seems to suggest they go into a 'sleep mode' at night, presumably due to the lack of solar power, so they might not provide any night time photos either. $\endgroup$
    – N. Virgo
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 5:13
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    $\begingroup$ @N.Virgo: And why would they, there isn't anything there to see that isn't better visible at lunar day. Other than the stars, of course, but they are not on the moon to make pictures of those. ;-) $\endgroup$
    – DevSolar
    Commented May 17, 2023 at 12:48
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    $\begingroup$ Given that there's no wind, I think it would be interesting to see a photo taken overnight using slow shutter speed if necessary to approximate what Earthshine would look like to a human on the moon at night. $\endgroup$
    – tomh
    Commented May 19, 2023 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ @tomh Brighter than moonlight. The earth is much larger, and the moon has no atmosphere getting in the way. As for photos "showing" that, it's a matter of exposure and how much you'd brighten the picture in post. It wouldn't be a good proof / example either way. $\endgroup$
    – DevSolar
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ I'd like to see it. I understand how exposure works. A day/night comparison of the same lunar landscape taken from the surface shown with Earthshine instead of sunshine would be interesting to me... $\endgroup$
    – tomh
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 13:16

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