Can You See The Flag On The Moon?

Since the American flag was planted on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, it has become iconic in human exploration and pop culture. It also garnered quite an attention amongst conspiracy theorists. 

However, the perception may be we all ask one common question; can you see the flag on the moon? Well, yes, but that depends on how you’re trying to look at it. You can’t see it with your naked eye or even a backyard telescope, but there is sophisticated technology that lets you. 

Let’s take a few examples of how people have tried seeing the flag and which ones have succeeded!

A Backyard Telescope

The human eye or even binoculars can’t see the flag on the moon. You can see huge craters with your naked eye. These craters are around a hundred kilometers huge, so you can forget about spotting a flag that’s only four feet in height.  

When it comes to binoculars, you may be able to see a crater as wide as 10 km at best. In Earth’s time standard, you’ll need around 2 hours to cross one of these through the middle. So, it’s a no-brainer that you can’t see the flag with either of these. 

That brings us to the backyard telescope. Unfortunately, a backyard telescope isn’t good enough to show you the flag on the moon. With even the best telescopes that you can afford to buy and install in your backyard, you’ll be able to see the craters that span 1 km at least

Even that can be compared to a huge neighborhood, so it completely omits the chances of you seeing the flag, which is only 4 feet in height!

Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space telescope was launched back in 1990 to send us pictures of space. It was one of the largest and most versatile telescopes to be launched into space. 

A lot of people have tried spotting the flag in images provided by the Hubble space telescope. The innocent logic behind this was if it’s taken from a point in space that is closer to the moon, one should be able to see the flag, right?

The Hubble Telescope
Deployed view of the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA

Not really; even with the pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, people haven’t been able to find even the landing pad, let alone the flag. These images let us see craters that are 100 meters wide at best, but nothing smaller.  

Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

After a long wait, the technology that was able to provide some blurry existence of the flag is the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from NASA. We’re not going to label this as a picture because it’s very hard to make out the flag from the picture.

If you zoom in enough, you’ll get to see the flag, and even the shadow of the flag, although it’s going to be very blurry. So, technically, you’ll just see a silhouette of a sort. 

However, from these pictures, you can also spot the area where the rockets descended as they left a huge mark. The Lunar Roving Vehicle that was used in these missions can also be seen. 

This is possible because the latest technology allows the Reconnaissance Orbiter to detect and capture photos of objects as small as 1m. So, it manages to capture the flag of 4 feet somewhat. 

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Flag Picture
The Apollo 17 Lunar Module Challenger descent stage comes into focus in this image taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

According to AZCentral, so far, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has managed to provide pictures of five flags left by the explorers from the Apollo missions. 

Are the Flags in Original State?

While five of the six flags left by astronauts from Apollo missions have been spotted, it’s still unclear if any of them bear any resemblance to the American flag anymore. 

Chief scientist for the cameras of the Reconnaissance Orbiter, Dr. Mark Robinson, has stated that the stars and stripes may have long faded away from the flags. The doctor guesses that after the hot and cold cycle, meteorite bombardment and direct exposure to extreme ultraviolet rays have caused the flags to fade away. 

Which Flag Is Yet to Be Identified?

The saddest part is that the one flag that hasn’t been found yet is the one left by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20th, 1969. 

Buzz Aldrin With Flag On The Moon
Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot of the first lunar landing mission, poses for a photograph beside the deployed United States flag during Apollo 11 extravehicular activity (EVA) on the lunar surface. Credit: NASA

While this is certainly upsetting, it also fueled the fire for many conspiracy theorists who believe the first moon landing to be a hoax made up by the US government. 

To their defense, Dr. Robinson stated that Buzz Aldrin did see the flag blow over due to the force of the Apollo 11 during takeoff. 

As the flag is believed to be lying on the ground by scientists, we can’t detect it. It’s because we can mostly spot the flags because of their shadows. A flag lying flat on the ground wouldn’t cast any discernible shadow. 

So, until we get access to better technology that allows us to see many more close-up shots of the moon, we won’t be able to see the first flag ever to reach the moon. 

Is America the Only Country to Have Flags on the Moon?

While most people are aware that America has flags on the moon, it’s a common misconception that it’s the only country to do so. Many countries have been to the moon and placed flags on the moon.

Other than America, India, China, the Soviet Union, and Japan has flags on the moon. Then again, flags aren’t the only tokens you’ll find up there. 

The European Union has sent numerous probes that were unmanned. While these couldn’t plant a flag, they did leave a lot of emblems there. 

Why Is It So Hard to See the Flag?

Two factors prevent us from seeing the flag on the moon from Earth. Firstly, there’s an atmosphere between us and the moon. This distorts our vision so much that we fail to utilize our viewing or zooming capacity to its best. 

Secondly, our telescopes are still not advanced enough to capture that much-zoomed picture with high fidelity. Research shows that if we were to see the flag from the Earth, we would need a telescope with a diameter of 200 meters. 

However, the max we have currently is 10 meters. 


So, can you see the flag on the moon? You can only through the pictures from the NASA reconnaissance drone. It’s still impossible to do so from Earth using a telescope, let alone binoculars or naked eyes. 

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Astronomy has mesmerized me since my father introduced me to space magazines and telescopes. My dedication to astronomy and the pursuit of knowledge has led me to various places, experts, and answers I hope to share with everyone one day.

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