Lunacycle: Photographing and Animating a Lunar Cycle

by planetmitch3 Comments

Many moons ago (yes, bad pun!) I saw this article and video about Lunacycle: Photographing and Animating a Lunar Cycle by Forrest Tanaka and thought it was really cool. I've always been fascinated by the heavens and still have a 6″ telescope (probably rotting by now) down in the basement that I bought with lawn mowing money when I was a teen – so I find this project really cool! If you've ever tried to photograph the moon, imagine doing an entire month and merging them all together. I'm sure the Canon EOS 5D Mark II helped a lot too 😉

From Forrest Tanaka:

I photographed the moon with a DSLR on a 4″ Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope each night for a lunar month, from the full moon on January 8 through February 5, 2012. I adjusted all their exposures, angles, and positions in the frame in post-processing, then merged each image using morphing software to make the transitions smoother and to take care of the moon's libration (wobble during orbit). I combined all these into one video for the complete month. I did miss a day here and there because of cloud cover.

In Forrest's post, he's got a lot of details on how he adjusted for the changes in size of the moon thru the month, exposure, angles, and more.

Lunacycle: A (nearly) Complete Photographic Lunar Month

[tentblogger-youtube rFnnYhTMGS8]

Forrest's behind the scenes

[tentblogger-youtube WSvPaQIwQ4A]

Since November 2011 I’d been thinking about an astrophotography project: take a photo of the moon each day from full moon to full moon, then combine it into a seamless movie that looks as if someone had moved the sun around the moon for one minute. I found similar videos, but most were simulations done in software, or photographic ones that weren’t very smooth. Seemed simple enough, mostly because I didn’t see the complications that would come along with this project caused by…physics.

My plan involved setting the same exposure each night starting with the full moon, and let the moon’s dark side gradually move across its face while the lit side stayed about the same brightness. Adjust the photos’ angles to match each other, throw all of them into Final Cut Pro X and add cross dissolve transitions between them, and I’d get a smooth movie showing every phase of the moon.

[source: tweet]

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)


  1. You did very well! I love it. Thanks for taking to time to accomplish this dream and for including us in it.

  2. Finally… A simple video explaining how to get into astrophotography. Thanks for sharing. Great Moon video timelapse as well.

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