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Photos: The moon’s evolving image

By Johnny Simon
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Over the centuries the moon has been worshipped, feared, and even thought to contain vast oceans and plant life. But as our technology has progressed, our perspective of our closest celestial neighbor has been brought, in a sense, down to Earth. As interest grows in returning to the moon, its important to look back how far we’ve come, from longingly gazing up at the sky to walking on the lunar surface.

Early lunar calendars

Archaeologists in 2013 discovered what is believed the be a 10,000-year-old lunar calendar, in a field in Scotland.

University of Birmingham
An artists rendition of the calendar, which depicted phases of the moon.

In religious art

Khonsu was the Ancient Egyptian lunar god

An ancient Egyptian pendant depicting Khonsu as a falcon.
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
A crescent moon on an Archaic Greek terracotta shard.

Early astronomy

While Englishman Thomas Harriot is credited with viewing and mapping the moon through a telescope earlier than Galileo Galilei, the Italian’s depictions of the moon are some of the most famous early sketches of the lunar surface.

Library of Congress
Galileo’s view of a half moon.

The first scientific lunar map, created by Giovanni Domenico Cassini and engraved by Claude Mellan in 1679, was considered one of the most detailed and accurate maps of the day.

Courtesy of the British Library

The moon across art and media

Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
“Two Men Contemplating the Moon” (1825–30) by Caspar David Friedrich.
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
“Autumn Full Moon at Ishiyama Temple” by Utagawa Hiroshige (1834–35)
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Rama and Lakshmana on Mount Pavarasana, artist unknown (1700)

One of the earliest known science fiction films “A Trip to the Moon” features the now-famous image of a moon with a face, being struck in the eye by a rocket.


Early photography

A mid-19th century daguerreotype of the moon taken by John Whipple and James Black.

Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The moon gets a close up

The biggest breakthrough in seeing the moon came when humans finally visited it close up. The stunning images of lunar orbits and landings gave a brand-new perspective of the lunar surface. The moon was suddenly no longer a distant body, but instead a new possibility for exploration.

A view of the lunar surface from Apollo 8.
Neil Armstrong, walking on the moon.