Why is it Impossible* For Telescopes On Earth To See Spacecraft on The Moon?

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Amateur astronomers regularly track and photograph spacecraft in deep space using telescopes. Tiny spacecraft can be seen millions of miles from Earth using carefully planned observations. However to view spacecraft on the surface of the moon, this isn’t possible because it’s easy to pick out a bright spot against the dark background of space but doing the same against the bright background of the moon isn’t useful. To get images of spacecraft on the moon (or mars!) you need to get much closer so that the details can resolve.

Here’s a list of special site on the moon which have been observed by LRO:

* and by ‘impossible’ I mean that it’s merely ridiculously difficult unless you build a massive device and someone correct for the atmospheric turbulence.

  1. shahar vahab

    SpaceIL just announced Beresheet-2

  2. Udi Ben-Reuven

    The laser mirrors left by Apollo are detectable by earth telescopes that are also used to blast them with a laser pulse

  3. John Kerr

    I dunno, Bob the flat earther from down the pub says those shadows are just dust from firmament-moths that fly into the bulb.

  4. Denis Polyakov

    I also made a series of 3 minutes exposures of hayabusa2 using half meter remote telescope in New Mexico.
    it also was at the moment of capsule separation, but I didn’t have the current TLE, so I couldn’t put the telescope in tracking mode. If anyone interested, I published the results on my facebook page. Under Denis Poliakov name.

  5. davekorbiger

    It would be interesting to send a probe to 2020 SO and find out what long time exposure to space does to man made objects.

  6. Arteljus

    That truck to your right is driving off the bookshelf…

  7. Robert Johnson

    Our moon is the second brightest object in the sky. Please don’t forget to use the proper filters.

  8. Caonabo Javier

    Also take on account lens aberration and colimation callubration of telecopes

  9. Robert Langford

    The limit of resolution.

  10. Nathan Start

    space archeology, so you can be a Jedi and Indiana Jones at the same time.

  11. Scott Meyer

    Are you going to address SN9 tipping ?

  12. LegoSonicFan17

    Hullo Scott I love your videos and how much work you put into them. I always learn new things when I click on your videos. Keep doing what you’re doing! Also you deserve more subs!

  13. zrzavyorm

    hi Scott – we’ll we see these objects from the ground after there are ~100,000 new internet satellites in the orbit in a few years?


    Paraphrasing spinal tap are we! Hahaha 🤣

  15. ZeroGravitas

    Several name checks for “Against a Dark Background”, but it was not in the background, itself. Missed opportunity. 😜

  16. Mark Evans

    The 2.3m Lunokhod 1 was lost between September 14, 1971 and March 17, 2010 until it was imaged by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

  17. Known as

    They found something shiny in space and think it’s ‘debris’?
    If I learned anything from KSP, that’s more likely than asteroids.

  18. Anarchy Antz

    That’s easy. It is because China have only been landing on the far side so far, dur!

  19. TheTechnoPilot

    And yet with all those images people still think it was all a conspiracy. 🙄

  20. My 3D printed life

    You turned this video up to 11 Scott, thats one more.

  21. Lister Dave

    Let me guess before watching the video :-). It’s because the spacecraft are too small and so are the telescopes. Also, the moon is far away.

  22. iowafarmboy

    I wonder if in the distant future there will be an attempt to capture some of these early rocket boosters and such and put them in some kind of museum in space.


    okay but can hubble see a 40cm stonehenge descend from the ceiling?

  24. Kraken Handler

    June 2019 on the coast of California I saw a flashing object (10-second interval) cross the sky which I thought must be a rotating solar panel or fairing but a shiny booster like that might fit too.

  25. budgiefriend

    Very informative, thanks.

  26. hameedullah jasat

    How on earth do you know so much about everything space related, any books you would recommend?

  27. Rusty Broken

    My God, it’s full of stars.

  28. Scott Delaney

    Scott Manley: Kind of amazing we can see these old objects in space
    Everything NOT on the planet Earth: I beg your pardon young man, but is that how you talk about your elders?

  29. TheNomadluap

    Last time I was this early I had to spend a few weeks in the NICU.

  30. Adam Loverin

    Love the shirt! If not for COVID layoff, I’d pick one up and add it to my Outlander/Game of Thrones/Breaking Bad/SpaceX/Lord of the Rings/Walking Dead/Angry Astronaut collection.
    Thanx again and fly safe, Scott. 👍

  31. TheEnd IsNear

    Hey Scott! Hope you are well.

  32. Titus Nelson

    Thanks Scott. Nice review. The photos of old Lunar Landing Sites were fantastic. Thanks for including them.

  33. Paul Haynes

    Interesting as always, Scott. My kids have heard so many of your intros now that they sometimes run round the house shouting “Hello, it’s Scott Manley here”, in what they imagine is a Scottish accent!

  34. Jakub Skowron

    You have nested single quotes on a shirt. Should’ve used \’

  35. Aa A

    Pretty obvious actually, because we live in the Matrix

  36. POLY Space news

    Hey guys ! I just made an animation about starship. I would love your feedback !

  37. Michael LaDue

    I am excited that they used Chevrolet/ GMC in the space program back then. (Starts popcorn and prepares for the nasty grams to begin)

  38. Aubrey Freeman

    Wonder how bright a stainless steel starship will be when it’s headed off to mars? Both it and that centaur are steel.

  39. North German Vloger

    where do i get this shirt? i need one ^^

  40. da monke

    SpaceX just hit 5 million subs lol

  41. Andrew Jonkers

    Worth it just for Scott pronouncing “mirror”. Nice explanation thanks.

  42. James Collier

    Physics wavelength resolution etc

  43. Locus Ambulare

    What is the music at the end of your video? It’s fire!

  44. zebo-the-fat

    It still won’t convince Moon landing deniers… because they may need to think!

  45. Pranjal Jain

    Being early feels special

  46. Martin D A

    Does a Beresheet on the moon?

  47. Mike Farnham

    Do they know how far and where the Centaur stage went before returning to Earth over the 40 years? 🤷🏻‍♂️🤷🏻‍♂️

  48. CrazyPetez

    Thank you for the informative video.
    Totally off subject: I have a t-shirt from the Daytona Speedway, printed on the back, “It’s a speed thing, you wouldn’t understand.”

  49. Milan Wanders

    I love that shirt😂 where can you get it?

  50. CarBENbased

    This topic reminded me of when Destin with Smarter Every Day along with Trevor Mahlmann captured images of the ISS transitioning across the partial eclipse back in 2017.

  51. VigorousHydro

    8:25 Sure. . . we believe you *X-Files plays*

  52. Diane Benzler

    I think that’s pretty funny that they’ve mistaken old rocket boasters as astroids!

  53. Alex Mitchell

    OR, and just hear me out, it’s because of ALIENS!

  54. derKarl

    because of that one stage passing by… we got something manmade almost visiting us again and “trash the planet”? 😜🤣

  55. DustyGamma

    Humans: leaving rubbish everywhere we go.

  56. nuclearfrog306

    Inb4 “you can’t see spacecraft on the moon because we’ve never been to the moon”

  57. Alessandro Verganti

    From that animation it looked like the centaur stage came from outside earth’s gravitational influence. Does it mean it was ejected from orbit 40 years ago and came back? If so that is amazing

  58. Schardt Cinematic Product

    Curious Droid also did a good video on this too.

  59. Toolkit SeventyOne

    Thank you for this and your channel. If I had this 30 years ago, I would have done things differently. No regrets though but now too old to go to Mars.

  60. Jon Knight

    “Its amazing we can see these old objects in space” referring to a 50 year old rocket, after we’ve just collected samples from asteroids that are billions of years old. :-)

  61. Kragaar

    I see a few Culture novels, good picks.

  62. Koozomec

    Thank you again Scott for those explanations.
    @4:57 “techniques spaciales” has very good videos on his yt channel too.

  63. Scott Hall

    Great explanation- Thanks for the details and examples!

  64. Chandrahas L

    Love the t-shirt! ❤️

  65. AgiHammerthief

    don’t wear that shirt on your videos, you’re doing a good job to make sure that we understand rocket things.

  66. Don Koltz

    8:24 slip of the tongue, or the start of the overton window shift? /s

  67. diamond_man1000

    Havent you explained this already? Must have been the other bald space explainer.

  68. HighlandPhoenix

    You know a video is good if it quotes Spinal Tap…!

  69. Yuri Souza

    I love the way he pronounces “mirror”

  70. Geoffrey Robson

    this is the first time I’ve seen pictures of the Hyabusa capsule retrieval. Reminds me of the Andromeda Strain! As always a fascinating video.

  71. Reactor Four

    Scott’s shirt sums up the story of my life in two sentences.

  72. Spitts

    Oh man this title is going to be fuel for the flat earth/fake moon landing people. I haven’t watched the video yet and I’m sure it’ll explain perfectly logically but the weirdos won’t bother to watch and claim it’s because the moon is fake or something.

  73. LuckyStriker

    3:15 When you said “against a dark background” I immediately started looking for the book of the same name by Ian M Banks on your bookshelf and sadly I could not find it.

  74. Vivid thespis

    Curious Droid did a great video on this as well. Nicely done to the both of you.

  75. waitaminutedoggie

    I speak Imperial though we revolted in 1776.

  76. Runoratsu

    „[…] amazing that we can see these old objects in space!“—I think most objects we can see in space are _a lot_ older than those! They are incredibly young in comparison… 😄

  77. Molos Gaming

    First,and the Biggest Fan right here!

  78. Abbas Zaidi

    3:43 Smell the Glove!!!!

  79. Max Rogers

    The best part of every video is “Hello it’s Scott Manley here.”

  80. Mist Rants

    Prediction: the moon is too bright which makes it exponentially more difficult to see a small object compared to if it were in the dark of space.
    EDIT: not correct but in the right direction!

  81. CocoaButt

    8:04 You need to hike Desolation Wilderness the Next time you visit the lake.

  82. Magnus Sörensen

    We know why we are all here. It’s to hear “I’m Scott Manley, fly safe”.

  83. Jackson Klootwyk

    Hi I have learned tons watching your channel

  84. Chris Hayes

    8:24 “… looking for spacecraft …” lmao, Scott confirms we’re looking for alien spacecraft

  85. fewwiggle

    Well, the fact that we found that rocket stage should give us some reassurance that we are seeing a whole lot of the potential objects that might impact Kerbin

  86. Rat And Monkey

    why does the Japanese dude holding the capsule look like he’s defusing a bomb?

  87. Draven Keller

    Dang I’m am extremely early. I love your work Scott, keep up the great work ❤

  88. benmol

    4:55 Techniques Spatiales has a fantastic YT channel (in French, and an other one in English : “French space guy”)

  89. Jeffery Vahrenkamp

    “Panstarrs is looking for space craft… Oops I mean asteroids”. A slip of the tongue gives away Scott’s knowledge of the true nature of Panstarrs, a secret earth defense project.

  90. Green Silver

    But if I get my binoculars out on a clear night, I swear I can see a 6 foot tall metallic monolith on the moon!

  91. K Mc

    Unfortunately you lost the flat earthers and lunatics at ‘think’ 😂

  92. Vanq

    The optical interferometer CHARA has units spaced 330 meters apart, which gives it a resolution of half a meter (if you were to ignore the atmosphere).

  93. Joseph Gabriel Portugal

    You should say on the upcoming flight of the sn9 “I’m Scott Manley here, flip safe” right?

  94. caconym

    I can’t hear the words “against a dark background” without thinking of the Iain [M.] Banks book of the same name. Not Culture, but an underrated one IMO.

  95. Tim Hartley

    Scott Manley offers common language breakdowns of Scientific information, drops a Spinal Tap Quote………This is why I love this channel!!!!

  96. Rob Erto

    I swear, every time Scott does the Intro his voice gets slightly Deeper. In a few years we’ll need infrasound microphones in order to detect his voice.

  97. BnORailFan

    8:24 Scott let slip that we’re secretly tracking the Vulcans passing by Earth.

  98. Krzysztof Kwietniewski

    08:24 I repeat, there is no Top Secret Alien Spacecraft Monitoring project in Hawaii.

  99. thesteef77

    Well, space archeology is officially a thing now…

  100. number 33

    “Space is dark. You just won’t believe how deeply, blackly, mind-bogglingly dark it is. I mean, you may think it’s dark in the depths of your soul, but that’s just sparklers to space.”

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