5.6 Why aren’t the shadows parallel?

IN A NUTSHELL: Shadows in the Apollo photographs actually are parallel, but perspective makes them appear to diverge. The same effect can be seen easily on Earth, for example in railroad tracks: their spacing only appears to change with distance, but it’s actually fixed. Also, the lunar terrain is anything but flat, so shadows follow its contours and therefore bend.

THE DETAILS: If you trace the directions of shadows in many Apollo photographs, you’ll notice that they’re not parallel, as exemplified below. Moon hoax proponents say that they should instead be parallel, because on the Moon there’s only one light source (the Sun), which is very far away and therefore casts parallel shadows according to the rules of optics.

An Apollo photograph showing non-parallel shadows, as presented in the Fox TV show Did We Land on the Moon? (2001).

Bart Sibrel, in the Fox TV show Did We Land on the Moon?, stated that “Outside in sunlight, shadows always run parallel with one another, so the shadows will never intersect”. Intersecting shadow directions, it is argued, imply multiple light sources, which are impossible on the Moon and suggest studio lighting. No explanation is given by Moon hoax proponents as to why NASA or the alleged hoax perpetrators would have made such a colossally stupid and glaring mistake.

In actual fact, multiple light sources would cause each object to cast multiple shadows, as occurs with the players in a football or baseball match played at night. But in the photographs taken on the Moon each object casts only one shadow.

Sibrel is correct in stating that in sunlight shadows run parallel to each other, but he seems to have forgotten about perspective, which causes shadows that are actually parallel to appear to converge if viewed or photographed from most angles. It’s a basic optical principle that occurs on Earth as well: parallel objects, such as railroad tracks, appear to converge in the distance, but they don’t actually become closer or intersect. That would make it rather hard for trains to work.

This perspective effect is really easy to demonstrate in real life. The photo below shows shadows cast at sunset by trees and by my very patient wife Elena. The sun is on the right. From this angle, the shadows look essentially parallel, as indeed they were.

My wife Elena patiently stands in for a lunar astronaut. Credit: PA.

But if the same scene is photographed a few seconds later from a different angle, as in the photo below, those very same shadows suddenly appear to converge. However, it’s just an optical illusion caused by perspective. The shadows haven’t actually moved.

The same shadows as in the previous photograph, taken from a different angle, now appear to converge. Credit: PA.

In other words, anyone who claims that intersecting shadows in Apollo photos are evidence of studio fakery merely shows a lack of understanding of the very simple concept of perspective and reveals very limited powers of observation. All it takes to realize that this claim is bogus is to go outside and look around.