Moon in 3D

Duncan Waldron

Camira, Australia

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Artist's Description

Having uploaded a single image of the Gibbous Moon some time ago, I have finally got around to presenting this 3D pair. These images are scanned from the original prints – themselves made from high contrast negatives – so some of the highlights are a bit blown, but this doesn’t really affect the 3D effect. Other details as per the Gibbous Moon image.
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These images are presented as a pair for viewing with eyes crossed. Stare at them for a few seconds, then cross your eyes until you see 3 images, and try to bring them into focus; if you succeed, the centre image will appear in 3D.

Normal 3D stereophotography requires the taking of pairs of images, with each image taken from a slightly different position; the intention is to replicate the effect of seeing the scene with your 2 eyes, which are separated by 60-65mm. With normal terrestrial photography, this is a fairly simple process, which can be achieved either by mounting 2 cameras side-by-side, or by taking 2 photographs one after the other, moving the camera sideways slightly between exposures.

To achieve any 3D effect with the Moon, the normal approach doesn’t work. The 3D effect is created by parallax – our brain sees slightly different images from each eye, and merges them into one; this allows us to perceive depth in a scene. However, our eyes are optimised for looking at objects about 3 metres away, for good stereo depth, and objects further away are decreasingly perceived in 3D. The Moon, being a quarter of a million miles away, is an extreme example, and you would need to take your stereo pair from one side of the Earth to the other, to achieve the required parallactic separation. This would be possible in theory, given 2 photographers working together, but the normal method is to use the Moon’s own orbital motions to achieve the same result.

As the Moon orbits the Earth, it keeps the same side towards us – mostly. It rotates once on its own axis for each orbit of the Earth; this is known as synchronous rotation. In reality, the elliptical orbit means that the orbital speed is not constant, although its axial rotation is, so that sometimes we are able to see more of the far side than normal, an effect known as libration (in simple terms, the Moon appears to ‘wobble’ slightly from side to side; just to complicate matters, there is also a north-south libration due to the Moon’s tilted axis). We can use this effect to simulate a different viewpoint, allowing the creation of a stereo pair, although the lunar phase needs to be the same, or very close. This Wikipedia article has a simulation of the libration effect.

Jamie Cooper has a similar pair, with a better contrast range and a fuller lunar phase.

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Image Copyright Duncan Waldron © 2009
This image may not be reproduced without permission
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