Institute of Astronomy

Stars on the Moon

Published on 02/05/2011 
Question: 

Is it possible to see stars from the surface of the moon? I thought it was but in an interview in 1970 (http://bbc.in/fRz0Mh) Neil Armstrong said you can only see the Sun and Earth.

When US astronauts visited the moon as part of the apollo program, people often comment in images that you don't see the stars. This is the same phenomenon Neil Armstrong described in the interview on the BBC in 1970.

The stars are actually visible from the surface of the moon but they are particularly difficult to observe. If on Earth you compare a night where there is no moon with a night with a full moon, it is much easier to see stars on the dark night with no moon. The same phenomena happens on the moon with the Earth reflecting the Sun's light as well as the astronauts only working in sunlight. And as you know from experience, during the day time we don't see any stars (unless you know exactly where to look using a telescope!) even though they're still shining.

So although the stars are there, the light conditions when the astronauts were working meant that they were unable to see them.

Page last updated: 2 May 2011 at 11:09