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Thread: Why Cernan saw stars and Armstrong did not

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    Why Cernan saw stars and Armstrong did not

    Quote Originally Posted by MaryB View Post
    My friends and I recently learned that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin claimed to not be able to see stars from the surface of the moon. A few days later, my friend Patrick brought me a copy of the Apollo 17 debriefing report in which Gene Cernan claimed one could see stars from the lunar surface, even in the light when he was outside of the shadow and even with his visor down. This whole bloody thing is so incredibly fake and phony.
    I believe that I have found an explanation for this, which does not involve conspiracy.

    Let's start with some reasonable assumptions:

    - There is no atmosphere on the Moon, so there is no atmospheric scattering, so stars should be visible
    - BUT, if one has a bright object in the field of view (i.e. the Sun), one cannot see the stars
    - AND, lunar surface is bright, and the visor glass is darkened, so only the brightest stars would be seen (if any)

    Okay, Let us now see the sky at the Apollo 11 landing:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The image was rendered using Stellarium. The view is straight up, and the azimuth grid is included. The horizon circle is marked by letters N-S-E-W (which also represent cardinal directions), so objects inside the circle are above the horizon and those outside are below the horizon. Bright stars and planets are labeled. Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to change the regional settings to English, so the time is given as GMT+2 and all labels are in Polish Most of the planetary names are similar; here's a dictionary of non-obvious ones: Słońce = Sun, Ziemia = Earth, Księżyc = Moon.

    For simplicity, I took date and time for landing, not EVA, but the Moon rotates slowly enough that I don not expect this to significantly influence the appearance of the sky.

    Anyway. You can see that most bright stars are close to the Sun: in azimuth, Rigel and Sirius are 40-45 degrees away; Betelgeuse is 20 degrees away; Procyon even less than that; Capella is 30 degrees away. There is no way one can see any of these, without the Sun getting into his field of view. To make matters worse, Rigel, Betelgeuse and Capella are at 50 degrees elevation; I am not quite familiar with the mechanics of Apollo suit, but I presume that it would not allow the astronaut to look so high up.

    The only bright star which is a good distance away from the Sun (115 degrees), and at reasonable elevation (15 degrees) is Achernar. There is also Canopus nearby, but it is so low over the horizon that it could be either obscured by terrain, or, the bright terrain would get into the observers' field of view and prevent him from seeing the star.

    Let's now look at the Apollo 17 sky:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    A rich star field with Hadar is located 50 degrees away from the Sun, between 10 and 30 degrees over the horizon. Procyon is 160 degrees away, effectively on the opposite side of the sky, 12 degrees above the horizon. Vega is 60 degrees from the Sun, 12 degrees above the horizon. That means that more bright stars are away from the Sun and at a reasonable elevation, making their observation much easier.

    So, I believe that the positions of bright stars during Apollo 17 were much more favorable for viewing than during Apollo 17. I also believe that this is a sufficient explanation for the phenomenon described in the quote at the beginning of this post.

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    What about Venus? It is referred to as the "Morning Star" and it is visible during the day on earth. Did the astronauts see Venus?

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    I believe that in both cases I have analyzed, Venus was too close to the Sun to be seen without being blinded or using something to shield the Sun. There is no evidence of astronauts doing the latter.

    Apollo 11 had better conditions here, but with Venus 55deg. above horizon. I doubt they could look that high up.

    ETA: "During the day" is misleading. I have never seen the Venus while having the Sun in the field of view. I have seen Venus when it was bright, but the Sun was already below the horizon. I grant one can possibly see Venus with the Sun still above the horizon, but that requires it to be far enough from the Sun, so it doesn't get into your field of view.

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    Quote Originally Posted by moonfunk View Post
    What about Venus? It is referred to as the "Morning Star" and it is visible during the day on earth. Did the astronauts see Venus?
    Venus was photographed during Apollo 14
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    I have seen Venus in the mid afternoon hours and a simple search will validate it is observable. I would assume it cant be seen in the field of the sun.

    However, since you didnt look up where Venus was during the entire length of the Apollo missions in question during their entire stay on the lunar surface, I consider this, unknown.

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    So Venus is viewable on the lunar surface.

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    Quote Originally Posted by moonfunk View Post
    What about Venus? It is referred to as the "Morning Star" and it is visible during the day on earth. Did the astronauts see Venus?
    Does a non-scientific nickname of "Morning Star" mean that someone seeing Venus would say they had seen a star, rather than a planet?


    Quote Originally Posted by moonfunk View Post
    So Venus is viewable on the lunar surface.
    Under the right conditions, sure. As kamaz has said, it might be possible if the Sun is below the horizon, or Venus is far enough away from the Sun to be out of the field of view.

    One should note that during the Apollo missions, the Sun was never below the horizon from the astronauts location on the surface of the moon. One should also note that because the length of a lunar day is a little under an Earth month, the apparent position of the sun didn't change very much during the Apollo missions, especially the shorter surface missions.

    As has been pointed out, Venus was photographed by Apollo 14. Of course, that doesn't mean an astronaut would have said "I saw a star," since Venus isn't a star.

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    Quote Originally Posted by moonfunk View Post
    However, since you didnt look up where Venus was during the entire length of the Apollo missions in question during their entire stay on the lunar surface, I consider this, unknown.
    Is there something wrong with the information Kamaz gave. (which, by the way, was excellent information IMO)

    How far could Venus have moved in relation to the sun during that time?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    Venus was photographed during Apollo 14
    One of images in question: from the shape of the Earth crescent one can see that the Sun was behind the LEM, therefore shielded, therefore not in FOV, therefore Venus was visible. Stars would be too, probably.

    P.S. It's cool to see the shadowed side of LEM illuminated with light reflected from the surface.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    How far could Venus have moved in relation to the sun during that time?
    Over 3 days of Apollo 17 on lunar surface, it was practically in the same place with respect to the Sun. It doesn't matter where Sun is, as the Sun-Venus distance is practically constant throughout your stay. If you sat there for weeks, than maybe Venus would change elongation enough to make real changes in observation conditions.

    There is another point here which I didn't spell out.

    If we ignore the planets for a moment, the actual difference between Apollo 11 & 17 is the time of year: one was in June, the other one in December. It's the position of the Sun against the fixed stars which determines which of them can be seen. The time of lunar day is relevant only as much that certain objects may be below the horizon (or too high to be observed). But for the observer on the lunar surface, the Sun rotates together with the background stars.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kamaz View Post
    One of images in question: from the shape of the Earth crescent one can see that the Sun was behind the LEM, therefore shielded, therefore not in FOV, therefore Venus was visible. Stars would be too, probably.

    P.S. It's cool to see the shadowed side of LEM illuminated with light reflected from the surface.
    And the latter is an important factor - shielded from direct sunlight isn't completely shielded from visual interference, since the lunar surface (being sunlit rock) is quite bright. So the visibility issue will be confined to bright stars and planets.

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    This is the main reason I still follow the Apollo CTs - learning interesting details like in this thread.

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    When Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon his visor was up. He was in shadow and in possession of dark adapted vision. So he could see stars and so could Cernan. Both could . Armstrong is lying about not seeing stars. Though I respect him. He is lying.

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    His surroundings were still pretty bright so saying he was dark adapted is over reaching.

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    There is also the very real possibility that he didn't bother to look for them. There were, after all, other things that were far more important going on at the time. As I recall, there was some concern about the distance from the bottom of the ladder to the surface being more then he was expecting from the training runs. Not flopping on his back on live TV was probably more of a concern as well.
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    Good godfrey! Mods are being such buzz kills. Our shotguns are primed and they keep taking away the barrel of fish. I mean how often do we get an hb who argues that someone losing his temper with an obnoxious stalker is irrefutable proof they could not have done something that was exhaustively documented.

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    Speaking of buzz kill, please stay on topic, Glom. (I understand what you are saying, there's not been many HB's to debate lately, but still - we are not going to put up with socks.)
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    I have thought, since discussion of this subjet began a couple
    of days ago, that if Armstrong didn't see any stars, it was because
    there was a light on in the LM during egress, which would be enough
    to reduce his dark adaptation to the point that he would not be able
    to see any but the very brightest stars, and that after he was on
    the ladder, he was looking at the LM in front of him, which was lit
    by the lunar surface behind him sufficiently to do the same thing,
    and probably at least glancing to the sides to see parts of the lunar
    surface that were not visible out the windows, which was lit brightly
    enough to prevent him from seeing even the brightest stars.

    (Sorry about the length of that sentence!)

    If he knew approximately where in the sky Canopus or Achernar
    were located relative to his position at that moment, he might have
    taken a minute or so to hold up a large sheet of paper or something
    (which of course he didn't have!) to block his view of the lunar surface
    to the right of the LM and look for those stars as his eyes re-adapted
    to the dark sky. I'm sure he would have seen them if he had made
    this brief effort. But instead, he was futzing around with deploying
    the TV camera and checking to be sure he'd be able to get back up
    the ladder.

    Orion and Sirius would not have been visible as he climbed down
    the ladder because they were on the opposite side of the LM.

    With the helmets, I expect it must have been a strain just to see
    as high up as the top of the rendezvous radar from anywhere on
    the ladder. Seeing higher than that, even from the footpad at the
    bottom of the ladder, would have required leaning backward,
    which was probably not a good thing to do.

    I would be very surprised if Cernan saw stars through his
    gold-coated sun visor. Far more likely is that he only had the
    protective visor down. I believe that it was completely clear,
    like the pressure helmet. It is also possible that rather than
    either of the visors, what was meant was that he had the
    sunshades down, to block out light from all directions except
    the direction he was looking.

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    On topic then, I'm now reading Gene Cernan's book The Last Man on the Moon. Maybe he'll explain himself. I'll get back to you.

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    I assume that both astronauts had 20/20 vision, but could it be that system of rating doesn't actually say much about how light sensitive the eye is? On paper both people may have been equally capable of seeing stars when in reality one was not?

    I suggest this as I have good vision, good enough to paint details like eyes and buttons on a 6 MM figurine, yet when others view them they are barely able to see the detail in question. I do this without any magnifying tool. Bad for the eyes or so I have heard.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    I assume that both astronauts had 20/20 vision, but could it be that system of rating doesn't actually say much about how light sensitive the eye is? On paper both people may have been equally capable of seeing stars when in reality one was not?

    I suggest this as I have good vision, good enough to paint details like eyes and buttons on a 6 MM figurine, yet when others view them they are barely able to see the detail in question. I do this without any magnifying tool. Bad for the eyes or so I have heard.
    If I remember what I learnt correctly, 20/20 vision means that effectively you can make out at 20 feet what a person with standard vision can make out at 20 feet (Actually it's a little more complex than that, it's something like being able to distinguish an object occupying a standard angle but the above is near enough for this discussion) But it is possible to have better than 20/20 vision (i.e. you can make out objects occupying a smaller arc than a person with standard vision at that distance)

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    Thats hardly evidence of good eyesight, its more indicitive of manual dexterity. Blind artists paint incredible detail:

    http://www.blindartistssociety.com/artists.html

    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    I assume that both astronauts had 20/20 vision, but could it be that system of rating doesn't actually say much about how light sensitive the eye is? On paper both people may have been equally capable of seeing stars when in reality one was not?

    I suggest this as I have good vision, good enough to paint details like eyes and buttons on a 6 MM figurine, yet when others view them they are barely able to see the detail in question. I do this without any magnifying tool. Bad for the eyes or so I have heard.

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    Frankly, I just don't get this. Why, exactly, would intelligent, well-informed astronauts *bother* looking for stars, when they would have known that:
    - their eyes had no hope of becoming night adapted given the sunlit surface, the sunlit LM, the sunlit gear they were working with, the fact that they were wearing helmets making it extremely difficult to shade their eyes effectively, etc.
    - they knew that the stars would be little brighter than good seeing conditions on earth, even they *were* able to shield their eyes and allow them the 10 minutes plus to night adapt.
    - they had important work to do, all of which required UN-night-adapted vision.

    Have those promoting this never been to a night event like a football match, or even just wandered around the city streets at night? How many stars do you see, without taking extraordinary measures to protect your eyes? (Then try doing it with a large white helmet on.)
    And yet the lighting conditions were MUCH MUCH brighter than that.

    And as for the "oh but the stars are so much brighter from the Moon!" claim - it is simply not even close to true. There is less than an f-stop difference (ie barely perceptible) to the view afforded from a good location on earth, and that ONLY applies from the night side. The astronauts weren't on the night side...

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    Quote Originally Posted by moonfunk View Post
    Thats hardly evidence of good eyesight, its more indicitive of manual dexterity. Blind artists paint incredible detail:

    http://www.blindartistssociety.com/artists.html
    That is very cool link and institution, but it appears this organization is to support or raise awareness/funds for artists who have lost their sight and can no longer work their craft. There are many who are fully sighted, some partially sighted and some who are blind. I did notice a few sculptors who continue to craft after having their sight seriously compromised. I have heard of a few blind artists who do paint, but I can not think of a name right now. Claude Monet's vision was seriously impacted by cataracts yet he is clearly a master.

    Hand-eye coordination does play into the ability to paint as does situational awareness. There are many examples of artists who can ply their craft without looking that the tool or the medium. Most are high trained, highly skilled people. I can only do this incidentally, typically I am unaware that I am no longer looking at my tools. Better artists can do this all of the time at will.

    In any event, my main point is I have what is described as 20/20 vision and others who are similarly described can't resolve what I can. I am pretty sure that there are a group of people who can see even better than I, even though they also have 20/20 vision.
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    The work of Degas shows clear differences developing as he aged and couldn't see as well. Someone with a little knowledge of his work can generally pick out the late work because of it.
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    Personally I think the answer is that you still had some indirect sunlight intrusion even in the shadow of the LEM; looking towards the MESA and its TV camera you're going to see a brightly lit lunar surface and any dark adaptation you may or may not have had will be ruined.
    http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question...trong-mesa.jpg
    Indeed, I loaded up an Apollo 11 scenario in Orbiter Spaceflight Simulator to see what Armstrong would have seen just as he was leaving the LEM.

    First a shot just to show our little virtual astronaut standing next to the LEM. The simulator accurately simulates our solar system, so the sun's position, stars, etc are all rendered properly from the perspective of Apollo 11's landing site. AMSO provides a historically accurate spacecraft model and landing site for Apollo 11 as well (for expediency and accuracy I used the scenario that comes with AMSO for Apollo 11 having already landed on the moon).
    http://i319.photobucket.com/albums/m...autap11lem.jpg
    Now here's what Armstrong would have seen just as he was backing out the door to the LEM at the top of the ladder; plenty of sunlit terrain is visible on either side of the LEM.
    http://i319.photobucket.com/albums/m...utap11lem3.jpg
    Here's what he would have seen at the bottom of the ladder looking towards the TV camera stowed on the MESA package (located approximately where the US flag is on the LEM there - camera clipping hides part of the ladder and struts, but you get the idea).
    http://i319.photobucket.com/albums/m...utap11lem2.jpg
    Again, plenty of sunlit terrain would ruin his dark adaptation right there.

    It would be possible to see stars on the moon, but you would need to deliberately shield your eyes from all stray light long enough to gain some dark adaptation. Armstrong's 2.5 hours of EVA time on the lunar surface was barely a blink compared to Cernan's three EVAs totaling nearly a full day on Apollo 17.

    Cernan simply had far more time than Armstrong with which he could take some time to look for stars. It's not something you should automatically expect any given Apollo astronaut to experience while on the surface since the surface itself would tend to eliminate dark adaptation even while in the shadow of the LEM. If an astronaut says he didn't see stars while on the moon, there's no logical reason to disbelieve or distrust him.

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    Yes, Frankly, why would someone who has a life long devotion to space, look for stars? I heard when, Julia Child ate at a restaurant, she wouldnt look at the food. She would eat it blindfolded. Of course I heard she was a WWII spy also, so I cant verify this.


    Quote Originally Posted by chrlzs View Post
    Frankly, I just don't get this. Why, exactly, would intelligent, well-informed astronauts *bother* looking for stars, when they would have known that:
    - their eyes had no hope of becoming night adapted given the sunlit surface, the sunlit LM, the sunlit gear they were working with, the fact that they were wearing helmets making it extremely difficult to shade their eyes effectively, etc.
    - they knew that the stars would be little brighter than good seeing conditions on earth, even they *were* able to shield their eyes and allow them the 10 minutes plus to night adapt.
    - they had important work to do, all of which required UN-night-adapted vision.

    Have those promoting this never been to a night event like a football match, or even just wandered around the city streets at night? How many stars do you see, without taking extraordinary measures to protect your eyes? (Then try doing it with a large white helmet on.)
    And yet the lighting conditions were MUCH MUCH brighter than that.

    And as for the "oh but the stars are so much brighter from the Moon!" claim - it is simply not even close to true. There is less than an f-stop difference (ie barely perceptible) to the view afforded from a good location on earth, and that ONLY applies from the night side. The astronauts weren't on the night side...

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    I realize Moonfunk has gotten himself suspended, but this isn't really a question for him, anyway.

    Did the Apollo astronauts have a lifelong devotion to space? (Actually, Julia Child didn't have a lifelong devotion to cooking, come to that.) I mean, at the time the Mercury missions started, I shouldn't think many people really thought about the prospect of going into space at all. Not in any kind of serious way. I've read that Buzz Aldrin had a livelong devotion to flight, but surely that would mean he was more interested in the mechanisms of the actual capsule than in what he saw when he got there.
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    That's a good point. They weren't astronomers taught to "fly" rockets; they were test pilots (more or less) who were taught to go into space.


    Edit to add: Some background...

    From wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Cernan ) "Cernan was publicly critical of the decision by NASA to send a scientist - Harrison Schmitt - to the moon, a decision that meant that original Lunar Module Pilot Joe Engle never got to walk on the moon. However, in Cernan's words, he proved a capable LM Pilot."

    Harrison Hagan "Jack" Schmitt, for that matter, was a geologist, not an astronomer. It was the Moon they were looking at, not the stars. (Mostly).
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    Quote Originally Posted by moonfunk View Post
    Yes, Frankly, why would someone who has a life long devotion to space, look for stars?
    Tell me, would even the most star-struck astronomer bother to look for stars in *daytime* on earth? That is a much closer approximation to the environment, than any night scene here on earth.

    I heard when, Julia Child ate at a restaurant, she wouldnt look at the food.
    I'm sorry, I don't quite see the relevance. The situation being discussed regards easily definable difficulties that prevent the use of normal eyesight to stargaze. If you were serious about this, you would elaborate on all the points I raised above. I'll repeat them now, for you to address on your return:

    1. Their eyes had no hope of becoming night adapted.
    If you dispute that, you will need to address the following questions:

    1a. How long does it take for (fully shielded) eyes to adapt from 'daylight', to a point where they would be seeing a *better* than earthly view of stars?

    1b. How would they fully shield their eyes from all incident sunlight, given the sunlit surface, the sunlit LM, the sunlit gear they were working with, the fact that they were wearing large helmets (with light coloured edges) and plexiglass visors.

    2. The stars are not significantly brighter from the Moon or space.
    2a. Please define how much brighter the stars are from the Moon, than from a good viewing location on earth? Citations please.

    2b. Are they brighter than they would have been from orbit on the night side of the Earth?

    2c. Do you think the astronauts might have seen such a view before, without the need for very difficult shielding of their eyes?


    Given all that, do you still think it would be an effective use of their time? Do you think your Julia Child 'analogy' was in any way relevant?

    Of course I heard she was a WWII spy also, so I cant verify this.
    How is this ontopic? And I'm very happy to verify/prove the issues I have raised above.

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