Hoaxes & Rumors

Debunked: NASA Photo of a Pyramid on the Moon

Debunked: NASA Photo of a Pyramid on the Moon
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A grainy image allegedly shows a pyramid on the moon, snapped by one of the Apollo 17 astronauts in 1972. Is this real or fake?

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The photo is real, but there a simple explanation, which does not involve pyramids on the moon.

History

Apollo 17 was a 12-day mission to the moon in December 1972. It had a crew of three, and was the last mission of the Apollo program. All of the images shot during Apollo 17 are online in the Apollo Image Library hosted by NASA.

“Pyramid” Photo

One image in the library has been the subject of debate, as an enhanced version appears to show a triangular object which some say resembles a pyramid on the surface of the moon. The photo is real and can be found on the NASA website, listed under Magazine 135/G. Below is the unaltered photo.

pyramid on moon unaltered

Fact Pages

Internet fact pages and conspiracy websites have used the “pyramid” photo to generate curiosity and interest, often stating that the photo had never been fully explained. “This is an interesting one, and I don’t think it’s ever been debunked,”
one “UFO” Twitter page wrote about the image – a tweet which was later deleted.

The photo circulated by fact pages is skewed to make the “pyramid” slightly wider than the original, and a shadowy vignette effect is also added which also does not exist in the original. Finally, NASA did not label this photo as “blank” as asserted by some writers. The official description is “LRV Floor? Sunstruck.” The next photo taken, which is the first photo on the next magazine, is listed as blank – but there is no image is provided for it.

Analysis

If viewed out of context, if would be easy to draw the conclusion that the photo above may in fact show a pyramid on the moon. Context, however, helps us more easily identify the actual contents of this image.

The image above is numbered AS17-135-20680. It is in a sequence of photos which spans two different rolls, or magazines, of film. This sequence is numbered AS17-135-20676 through AS17-135-20680 on Magazine 135/G and continues onto the next magazine (136/H) with numbers AS17-136-20681 and AS17-136-20682. Although 81 is blank, 82 shows a similar scene as those before it: pointed downward showing the floor of the Lunar Roving Vehicle, or LRV. Take a look at this entire sequence below.

apollo 17 image 76

Image 76

apollo 17 image 77

Image 77

apollo 17 image 78

Image 78

apollo 17 image 79

Image 79

apollo 17 image 80

Image 80, the “Pyramid” photo and the last on Magazine 135/G.

(Image 81 is blank)

apollo 17 image 82

Image 82, and the first on Magazine 136/H.

End of Sequence

In perusing the NASA library, it appears that the beginning and ending images of many magazines contain images which were taken with no particular subject in mind, perhaps during the loading or unloading procedure, or for focusing (such as the beginning images of Magazine 135/G). Consider, for example, similar end-of-sequence photos of Magazine 142/M which are labeled “sunstruck” or “LRV floor” or others which are labeled as both. Some of these end-of-magazine photos are so sunstruck and ambiguous that NASA included question marks in the description such as “LRV floor?”

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As you can see in the sequence shown above, which includes the “pyramid” photo, there are many objects which could have formed the triangular image in the photo in question. Further, it appears that the camera was aimed at the LRV floor during the entire sequence, as one magazine was unloaded and the next was loaded. It does not stand to reason that image 80 would be focused on a distant object during in the middle of this unloading and loading phase, while all of the images before and after it show the LRV floor.

Readers over on Metabunk have attempted to identify the specific features in this photo.

Bottom Line

The grainy image of a “pyramid” on the moon appears to be an image shot of the Lunar Rover Vehicle’s floor as the film was being changed in the camera.

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