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Fresh From 1849: The First Animated Gif of the Moon

A series of exposures shows the oldest surviving photo of the Moon

(Samuel D. Humphrey)

Not long after the process of Daguerreotype photography was unveiled in 1839, early photographers turned their eyes upward, and a number of photographers, including Daguerre himself, tried to capture images of the moon. Many of these earliest attempts were lost—the oldest known photograph of the Moon that has survived was taken in 1849.

Photographing the Moon can be tricky, even today: finding the right exposure to balance the bright moon against the dark night sky takes some finesse. You can see the results of this fiddling in the 1849 photo, as the photographer, Samuel D. Humphrey, played with the exposure length to capture a series of photos on a single light-sensitive plate.

If the photos were strung together, though, Humphrey's set could be something even more:

Pseudonymous writer Burrito Justice has more about the early history of lunar photography on his blog. 

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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