The moon landing on July 20th, 1969 was one of the most monumental events in history. Almost everyone has seen the images of the Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepping off of the Eagle lunar module and taking man’s first step on the moon.
Though this is a factual moment that took place, there is a small but very vocal minority that claims the moon landing was an elaborate hoax that was fabricated by Hollywood. Among the evidence they use for this theory is the fact that the stars aren’t visible in the photographs and video footage. However, there is a perfectly logical explanation for why the stars were absent.
It has everything to do with the camera settings: they weren’t adjusted to capture them. When taking a photo of a friend in direct sunlight, there are two ways to adjust the setting in order to capture the best quality photo.
First, you would narrow the aperture, which is designed to keep the light-collecting area on the lens as small as possible, in order to avoid letting in too much light. You would also turn up the shutter speed so that the camera sensor only allows light in briefly. Contrastingly, if you wanted to take a picture of a friend at night, you would widen the aperture and slow down the shutter speed to light more light in.
On the moon, this process gets turned on its head. Imagine if your friend was illuminated just fine at night. In this case, you’d have to choose what you want to capture in the photo. If the priority was to capture the stars, then you would have to ensure that your friend stood perfectly still so they wouldn’t risk blurring the photo while the slowed-down shutter and aperture allowed enough light in.
However, if your priority was to make sure your friend was as clear as possible in the photo, then you would increase your shutter speed and keep your aperture small. In doing so, you would capture a sharp and decently bright picture of your friend, but the sky in the background would remain dark because there wasn’t enough light to capture everything.
This is the exact opportunity cost that the Apollo astronauts had to choose between. They decided that the priority was to capture the moon landing. On the moon, the sky is black but not because it’s always night. It’s because of a lack of atmosphere to scatter the daylight, the way it does on Earth. Nevertheless, there is just as much sunlight in the day on the moon as there is on Earth. This makes the lunar surface much too bright for the lens of a camera.
There you have it! The scenery on the moon was, understandably, more important to the Apollo astronauts than capturing the stars. As a result, the camera was adjusted to capture that scene and the stars in the background didn’t register in the footage.