Of the countless images of the moon available online, you've likely never seen one as arresting as this one.

The image, a composition of some 50,000 exposures taken over one hour, was captured by astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy on the evening of Feb. 12 from his backyard in Sacramento, California.

"The moon looked particularly gorgeous," McCarthy told MNN, "and after several days of rain, the seeing was remarkably clear for the 1-2 hour window when the moon was out. I looked at it through my scope and decided to try and create an image that reflected the beauty of what I could see through the lens, since photos really don't do it justice."

The detail captured by McCarthy of the moon's surface is nothing short of astonishing.
Look at the detail of the moon's surface. (Photo: Andrew McCarthy)

To pull off his NASA-worthy, 81-megapixel image, McCarthy used an Orion XT10 telescope, Skywatcher EQ6-R Pro tracking mount and two cameras (Sony A7 II and a ZWO ASI 224MC CCD camera).

"This image was created using a combination of shots from 2 different cameras, one to capture earthshine and stars, and one to capture the detail on the lit side of the moon," he wrote on Reddit, where the image quickly went viral. "The shots were then stacked and pieced together for editing. I took so many shots to average out the blurring caused by atmospheric turbulence, as well as to eliminate noise captured by the camera sensor."

McCarthy, who has crafted more beautiful composites like the one above, says he wants to provide even more detailed shots of objects in our celestial backyard.

"I am working on improving my skills with the equipment I'm using, and have many, many goals for creating much higher quality images of many objects," he told MNN. "I would like to do another solar system portrait this year, and capture animations of each planet and the moon's rotation. I would also love to do time-lapses of solar activity and capture high-definition images of each deep space object in our sky."

To order prints of McCarthy's beautiful images or to follow him online, visit his official site.

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.