Are Apollo Landing Sites Visible Using a Telescope?

There are a total of six Apollo landing sites as of the moment, and not one of the items left by astronauts or any descent stages can be seen through the use of the telescope. Even the biggest and the most advanced telescopes right now will not help people spot the leftovers of the Apollo missions. 

However, during the first quarter of the moon, craters and areas that became landing sites of the Apollo missions are visible on the moon’s surface. The Apollo 11 and Apollo 15 landing areas are mostly seen on the moon’s surface. With the use of a small telescope or even binoculars, craters can be spotted on the moon.

The Apollo 11 Landing Site


The first Apollo mission on July 20, 1969, took place on the Mare Tranquillitatis side of the moon. Astronomers and astronauts pick their landing sites, and for this mission, they chose the Mare Tranquillitatis. They decided to land in this area because of its flat surface, making their landing easier and uncomplicated. 

map of the locations of all successful soft landings on the near side of the Moon to date

However, as they drew closer to the landing area, Neil Armstrong noticed that they were moving toward a rough area of the Mare, so he decided to manually control the lunar lander and land it in a smoother surface area.

There are three small craters located on the Apollo 11 landing site. They were named after the three astronauts who first landed on the moon: Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins. 

The Armstrong crater is the largest of them all, with a size of 4.6 km, followed by the Aldrin crater with a diameter of 3.4 km. Lastly, the Collins crater, which measures 2.4 km. Despite being small craters, they could be seen through the use of small and amateur telescopes. 

To see about 600 to 700 meters of the landing site, you might need to use a large amateur telescope. An 8.2 m telescope, on the other hand, can capture landing site features 130 meters across.

The Apollo 12 Landing Site

The Apollo 12 landing location in the Ocean of Storms is marked by one of the moon’s most stunning craters.

A telescope with a 50x magnification or higher is required to view the Apollo 12 landing site. Between the full and last-quarter phases of the moon, the site can be seen in Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms), next to crater Copernicus.

Locate Copernicus’ massive crater and position it at the bottom of your inverted frame of view. The crater Lansberg and the smaller crater Reinhold are visible to Copernicus’ top right. The landing site of Apollo 12 is located to the top left of the 3.1-kilometer-deep Lansberg.

The Apollo 14 Landing Site

The Apollo 14 landing location is near Fra Mauro (around crater Ptolemaeus), one of the most stunning and photographed ‘crater chains’ on the moon’s surface.

Between the first quarter and full moon, you’ll need a telescope with a magnification of 50x or more to see it.

Jump across to the right of Ptolemaeus to find the minor ring-like crater, Parry, once you’ve found Alphonsus, Arzachel, and Ptolemaeus. Just to the bottom right of this crater is the Apollo 14 landing site.

The Apollo 15 Landing Site

Two years after the successful Apollo 11 mission, the first moon landing, on July 30, 1971, the Apollo 15 mission happened. This time, the spacecraft landed in a rockier and more mountainous area just almost above the Apollo 11 mission’s landing site. This landing site is located in the mountain range that is named the Lunar Apennines. 

The astronauts of the Apollo 15 mission explored the Rima Hadley region. This region can be visible when you use a telescope with at least 8 inches aperture, and you could catch a lovely view of it, especially when you have an excellent lighting conditions.

The Apollo 16 Landing Site

The Apollo 16 lunar module ‘Orion’ landing location in the Descartes Highlands is arguably the most difficult to locate. You’ll need a telescope with a 100x magnification or more to see it during the first quarter to a full moon.

You’ll see a tinier, sharper-rimmed crater to the right of the crater Theophilus if you place it to the left of the eyepiece’s field of vision. Kant is to the lower right, while Apollo 16 is in the steep mountains.

The Apollo 17 Landing Site

The lunar module Challenger landed in a notch-like ‘bay’ on the Sea of Serenity southern shore during the last Apollo mission in December 1972. To view it in Taurus-Littrow Valley during the first quarter to the full moon phase, you’ll need a telescope with a magnification of 100x or higher.

Place the small crater Posidonius at the foot of your frame of view to find it. Beyond the semi-circular Le Monnier bay, follow the shoreline ‘up.’ You can find the Apollo 17 landing site by continuing upwards.

Viewing the Leftovers of the Six Successful Apollo Missions

night sky, full moon

As stated above, even when you use the largest telescope, it would not be possible for you to see the leftovers on the Apollo missions’ landing sites because they are relatively small. Even the Hubble Space Telescope, the space telescope launched in 1990 and still orbiting in space right now, the biggest and most flexible telescope cannot capture the leftovers and the pieces of evidence of the Apollo missions. 

The Hubble Space Telescope, which has a mirror in the size of 94.5 inches and a 0.024-inch resolution in UV light, is about 43 meters at the moon’s distance. Its resolution becomes 0.05 inches in visible light, which is closer to 91.44 meters. Keeping in mind that the largest Apollo mission leftover on the moon measures 5.46 meters high by 4.27 meters wide Lunar Module, despite being a large telescope, Hubble could not capture this equipment that was left on the moon.

During the moon’s waxing (also known as the “maxing” of the moon, which is the growth of the moon’s light that is identified through each phase of the moon until it reaches the last phase, which is the full moon), the Apollo missions’ landing sites would be visible, one by one. This would begin with the Apollo 17 landing site located in the eastern hemisphere of the moon and will be concluded by the landing sites of the Apollo 12 and 14 missions in the moon’s western hemisphere. 

You might need to use a telescope with a size of 4 inches or even larger that could magnify 75 times or even higher to see the landing sites of the Apollo missions. Remember that having a larger telescope with a higher power could increase the possibility of seeing and recognizing each landing site better.