Fake Lunar Photographs From 1874
After two decades of moon gazing, Nasmyth co-authored the book The Moon Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite with astronomer James Carpenter, where the duo put forward various hypothesis of the moon’s origin, its internal structure and geology. Nasmyth, like many astronomers of the day, believed that the craters on the moon’s surface were of volcanic origin. The book comes with many diagrams of cross-section of the celestial body’s subterranean layers to illustrate this idea, even drawing examples from the terrestrial world to demonstrate.
For instance, Nasmyth argued that as the lunar sphere cooled the outer layer solidified first and contracted, while the inner layers, still molten, expanded which Nasmyth calls “pre-solidifying expansion”. The expanding inner core strained against the contracting outer layers resulting in cracks from appearing on the lunar surface through which molten lava erupted forming the moon’s many craters. Finally, as the core cooled and shrunk it caused mountains to materialize just as shrinking muscles due to old age create wrinkles on the back of a hand. Nasmyth also demonstrated that the expanding interior caused the characteristic radiating streaks found on the moon’s surface by showing a photograph of a glass sphere cracked radially by pressure from within.
Although the science is incorrect, the images that accompanied the book were astounding. Even though fake, the photographs were —as NASA noted— “more realistic than the images that could be achieved by telescope photography at that time.” Ironically, a century later when the Apollo missions beamed home actual images and footage of the moon’s surface, the NASA and the government were accused of faking it all up—a ridiculous notion that refuses to die to this day.