Exposing PseudoAstronomy

July 17, 2009

The Apollo Moon Hoax: What’s Up with All Those Crosshairs? – Disappearing, Not Centered, and Tilted


Within the class of Apollo moon hoax claims of evidence, there’s the giant category of photography and videography. Within that, there is a reasonable chunk of a few claims that deal with the crosshairs – also known as “fiducials.” There are numerous anomalies that deal with these crosshairs, and this post is meant to address most of them.

All posts in this series:

The Claims

There are two main crosshair claims. The first is a favorite of Bart Sibrel, who talks about it in his docudrama, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon: “A crosshair, which was burned directly into the image by the film plate, and thus should always appear on top of the objects in the photograph, appears behind the object in this scene, clearly revealing a composite of two pictures into one.” (Note that the specific scene in the movie is shown below.)

Bart Sibrel's "Disappearing Crosshair"

The second claim deals with the positioning and orientation of the crosshairs, with this quote taken from Bennet & Percy in Dark Moon, p. 68: “In some photographs the large crosshair is not centered, and in other the grid is not aligned with the image boundaries.”

What Are the Crosshairs?

Before I actually address these claims, I need to give some background information. The fiducials were etched onto a glass plate, each fiducial having a width of 0.1 mm (100 µm). They were etched in so as to be perpendicular/parallel with the edges of the glass plate. The center crosshair was larger than the others.

This plate was then inserted into the cameras between the lens and the film. Therefore, as the hoax folks claim, the crosshairs should all appear “on top of” anything in the photographs, and they should be aligned with the original image boundaries.

Part of the reason for having these was to determine the distances to objects when taking stereo pairs of images.

Why Do They Appear Behind Objects?

In every single example shown, the fiducials seem to “disappear behind” a bright, white object. There are three reasons why this happens: Bleeding of the emulsion, saturation of the dynamic range, and low-quality reproductions.

Taken in order, because the fiducials were so small, a bleeding of the chemicals to make the image of less than the width of a human hair could easily act to remove the fiducial.

This isn’t a very satisfying answer to today’s crowd of folks who have never developed film in a darkroom, so let’s move onto the second reason: Dynamic Range. This is actually the same reason why you don’t see stars in the photographs from the moon. The idea is that film can only record a certain level of darks to lights.

Let’s say that it’s represented by a number between 0 and 99. That is our dynamic range. Now let’s say that in a scene, we are going to take a photograph that lasts 1/100 second (0.01 sec). In this time, the darkest object in the scene reflects 0 or maybe 1 piece of light. In this amount of time, the brightest object in the scene reflects 150 pieces of light. And then there are objects of intermediate brightness.

When the image is recorded on the film, anything that emits or reflects more than 99 pieces of light in that 0.01 seconds will appear white. 99, 121, or 150 will all appear to be the same brightness.

Now, when we look at the photographs and these crosshairs seem to disappear behind a bright object, that’s in part due to the limited dynamic range. That bright object was reflecting more light than the camera could record in that exposure. And when the crosshair was over it, it did not lower the brightness enough to appear any differently.

This goes hand-in-hand with the third reason: Low-quality reproductions. Anyone who’s ever used a photocopier knows that you want to use the original. If you make a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy … then you will lose resolution and color-matching with each copy, eventually coming back with a splotchy, muddy image.

Apollo photographs have been copied so many times that the very slight brightness difference that a crosshair over a bright object vs. the bright object itself would have that it can easily disappear.

A side-reason from this is not just due to the copying, but also due to each person who got the copy (and then copied it and passed it on) manipulating the image. Anyone who looks at the image from Sibrel’s movie above (and re-posted below) who has photography background will notice that the image has been overly-sharpened (you can tell by the very bright white line on top of the hills in the background, among other things). When you sharpen an image, you have to select a pixel size overwhich to sharpen. Anything smaller than that pixel size will lose all detail, and hence the very fine lines from the fiducials can, again, easily disappear.

Bart Sibrel's "Disappearing Crosshair"

Why Are the Crosshairs Rotated, and Not Centered?

To revert to an ad hominem, this is a very silly claim, especially in this day and age where 5-year-olds can manipulate photographs on the computer. Remember, this was a massive public relations (PR) campaign, and NASA had to convince the American public (and the world) that this was worth doing.

So while NASA wouldn’t release all the bad photographs that the astronauts had taken, they also would take the good photographs and would crop and rotate them, which obviously would move the crosshairs around.

For example, I like to use Apollo 11 photograph AS11-40-5868, which shows Buzz Aldrin coming out of the lunar module (LM). The original photo is shown below, with the big crosshair centered, and the others all aligned with the image boundaries. (Note that I have sharpened the image in order to bring out the crosshairs.)

Apollo Photograph AS11-40-5868

Apollo Photograph AS11-40-5868

Now, let’s take another look at the photo. It’s kinda neat, but from a photographer’s point of view – and a PR person’s point of view – not all that great. The horizon is crooked, the astronaut looks like he’s going to fall off the ladder, and there’s this clunky machine that looks like it’s tilted and going to fall on him.

So let’s rotate it, and then crop it:

Apollo Photograph AS11-40-5868 After Rotating and Cropping

Apollo Photograph AS11-40-5868 After Rotating and Cropping

There now — we have a flat, horizontal horizon, the astronaut is majestically descending the ladder, and the clunky machinery of the LM is standing there, ready to take him back to the Command Module, orbiting above.

But – gasp! – the crosshairs are now rotated, and the large one is off-center!! Getting an idea for how silly this claim is, yet?

Final Thoughts

The crosshair/fiducial claims are just as much of an anomaly hunt as most of the other “evidence” for the conspiracy theorists. Each claim may, by itself, seem to make perfect sense, but then once you actually examine the claims, you will quickly find that they just fall apart.



  1. wat evs we did not do on moon

    Comment by k — June 13, 2010 @ 12:30 pm | Reply

  2. That was such bullshit, do you actually think we are that dumb about the crosshairs? You are spewing disinfo.

    Comment by daniel — April 23, 2013 @ 10:31 pm | Reply

    • Daniel, if you’d like to actually address the evidence and arguments, please feel free. What you’ve written above does nothing to show where my analysis is flawed.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — April 23, 2013 @ 10:34 pm | Reply

    • I take it then Daniel, you don’t have the mental capacity to actually understand what was being explained on the webpage? You sound like the average run of the mill hoaxtard – ignorant and indoctrinated with the BS you’ve seen from other hoaxtards, lol.

      Comment by Chris Carter — June 24, 2019 @ 2:02 am | Reply

  3. Greetings. I will not go into all of your analysis, since, like the case with the proverbial black swan, when I see one I will not devote a lot of time to finding more.

    Your argument about dynamic range and bleeding as explaining crosshairs that are covered by actual photos? It makes a great deal of sense. However, sorry, I call BS, as applied to the NASA images. If it happens a few times, it should always, or at least very frequently, happen, if your explanation is valid. However, the first image I called up from NASA shows a well-defined line going right horizontally on the photo. See:

    Either it bleeds or it doesn’t. Pictures don’t get to decide if they will bleed. Unlike conspiracy theorists, I will not devote my life to going through all of the NASA images to see how often the line succeeds in remaining well-defined even when it covers a very bright part of the image.

    There’s been manipulation.

    Comment by Dan Smith — July 21, 2013 @ 5:18 am | Reply

    • Let me get this clear: You think that because there are many good images that show clear cross-hairs, that disproves one of the explanations that happen in some cases for images that moon hoax proponents say were hoaxed?

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — July 22, 2013 @ 10:58 am | Reply

    • I d/l some of the NASA images to have a closer look. All the crosshair ‘errors’ are from totally blown areas (many photo software can show you over/under-exposed areas). Film can only provide a certain range of dynamic range, and the guys had only manual cameras. Really good cameras, but still manual. I am not going through the few 1000 images, but I doubt the ‘error’ will happen on any underexposed image.
      Don’t get me wrong, I really want to believe that the moon landing was fake, but so far I didn’t see a single believable evidence.

      Comment by MoonHoaxer — March 24, 2019 @ 12:18 am | Reply

  4. Yes, their logic seems to be that if something (the film itself, the camera, it’s processing, handling and reproduction) works as expected in most cases, then all the thousands of photo’s taken on the surface, in varying conditions, by Apollo astronauts should appear this way without exception. If only everything in life was a reliable as this premise would require of those photos.

    Comment by Ivan Horn — September 1, 2013 @ 7:09 am | Reply

  5. Hi, dunno, why you stick to these details to prove the untruthfulness of moon landing. Just check the the lander, it is made of cardboard and tinfoil! There aren’t even windows to navigate! Where is the toilet?? It’s just obvious!

    Comment by GaborD — November 12, 2015 @ 5:28 am | Reply

    • They used bags to eliminate waste. Haver you seen Apollo 13?

      Comment by Richard Lurie — June 5, 2016 @ 8:08 pm | Reply

  6. Why is his space suit white but the moon is grey ? Last time I looked up the moon was BRIGHT WHITE.

    Comment by Mmm — March 11, 2017 @ 9:46 am | Reply

    • the moon is in fact dark grey in color, which is apparent if you look at it during the day. it only looks white when you look at it at night because even dark grey is vastly brighter than the blackness of space.

      Comment by Monckat — March 12, 2017 @ 2:04 pm | Reply

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