The Illuminated Dark

Hey! What’s that? Paula Graham took an astronomically intriguing photograph from outside of her house (Devon in UK). But something doesn’t look quite right…the full moon appears to be cuddling with a lunar crescent: what kind of cosmic sorcery is this?!?! A waxing crescent moon can never align opposite the sun in the sky—so it’s not possible to see the moon’s disk…or is it?

Question: What is Earthshine?

Answer: Sunlight reflects off Earth’s surface, and then illuminates the moon’s night side (kind of like a planetary flashlight).

Earthshine is best seen during a waxing or waning lunar crescent phase, however, atmospheric conditions determines the clarity and visibility of earthshine, so it’s not possible to accurately predict when earthshine will be visible. Sorry. Pollution, clouds, haze, smog, fog—all of those lovely things obscure earthshine’s delicate glow.

** How to See Earthshine **


  1. Observe every waxing or waning crescent moon

  2. Seek a location far away from highly populated cities

  3. Listen to the sky! If atmospheric conditions feel right—go outside and confirm your suspicions

  4. Thunderstorms are known to scrub away atmospheric pollutants. Try locating a crescent moon after a thunderstorm and you may see earthshine.

  5. A crescent moon may hang low on the horizon! Trees (and other environmental objects) could obscure your view


Thanks for sending me the photo, Paula!

** Click here to follow her blog! **


Paula’s image specifications:

Camera: Nikon D3

Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm

ISO: 3200

Exposure: 1/5 second (Handheld)

Aperture: f/2.8

Processing: RAW file  (Adobe Photoshop 6)


** Earthshine Photo-Gallery **

Earthshine and Venus
Earthshine and Venus
Earthshine — Canon EF 50mm
Earthshine - 1
Twilight Earthshine (Orion Apex 102mm)
Earthshine and Venus (Wide angle / Canon EF 24mm prime)
Earthshine and Planetary Conjunction
Earthshine (Orion Apex 102mm)

Published by FlyTrapMan

I have no idea what I'm doing.

13 thoughts on “The Illuminated Dark

  1. I feel most honoured to have my snap on this illustrious blog, listning to the sky is what I shall do more often….Well spoken Poet R, they are like shiny and desirable ornaments. Your photos are impressive Mr Trap, proving the point so beautifully.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful shot by Paula! I’ve heard of moonshine but not earthshine before, so thanks for the lesson, Professor Fly 🙂 Those other photos were taken by you? — Lovely, as well! The moon and Venus entangled in the trees are like optical illusions; it’s as if they’re hanging like ornaments. ❇️ 🌝 🌜 🌞 🌝 ❇️ 🌜 🌞 ❇️

    Liked by 2 people

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