In a unique lunar composite that took ten years to complete, Italian teacher and astrophotographer Marcella Giulia Pace captured all the different colors she observed of a full Moon.
An Impressive Archive of Lunar Photos
Pace teaches at a primary school in Italy but also pursues her passion for astronomy, mountains, and optical illusions. Some of her astrophotography work has been published internationally and recognized in awards, like the Astronomy Photographer of the Year, organized by the Royal Museums Greenwich.
Having collected a diverse set of full Moon shots over the past ten years, Pace brought them all together in one striking composite that showcases the many different faces, colors, and even shapes of the Earth’s only natural satellite.
“The atmosphere gives different colors to our satellite (scattering) based on its height with respect to the horizon, based on the presence of humidity, or suspended dust,” Pace says, describing the changing nature of the Moon as seen through her lens.
“The shape of the Moon also changes: at the bottom of the horizon, refraction compresses the lunar disk at the poles and makes it look like an ellipse. And this is one of the reasons why I have chosen to present my Full Moons through a spiral arrangement that ends with a lunar eclipse.”
The Constantly Changing Nature of a Full Moon
The process of gathering all different full Moon shots took Pace ten years. She first cataloged them by color and then rearranged them in a palette by color gradation and shade for a visually pleasing result.
Pace explains that even though it seems the Moon changes colors, that is not actually the case. Instead, the layers of the Earth’s atmosphere are what give it different colors based on its composition — volcanic dust, thin cloud layers, pollution, and other factors.
“A red or yellow colored moon usually indicates a moon seen near the horizon. There, some of the blue light has been scattered away by a long path through the Earth’s atmosphere, sometimes laden with fine dust. A blue-colored moon is more rare and can indicate a moon seen through an atmosphere carrying larger dust particles. What created the purple moon is unclear — it may be a combination of several effects,” NASA writes in a piece discussing Pace’s composite.
“Above all, therefore, it is a low atmosphere that generates the most varied colors,” Pace writes. “In fact, it is in the lower atmosphere that powders are deposited on which, according to their size, scattering acts by spreading some colors of the spectrum and making others penetrate.”
Throughout the years she has spent documenting full Moon photos, Pace has gone through different camera models and has shot her photos using different settings as well. Pace explains that despite the different tools she used, she tried to stay true to what she saw by not greatly modifying the photos.
In her blog post, Pace explains in great detail the locations she picked and the shooting conditions of the original Moon photos. She has also shared answers to frequently asked questions about her astrophotography process for this project.
Image credits: Photos by Marcella Giulia Pace.