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You Can and Cannot See

Dave North


“Sometimes I think the current miasma of Moon maps is one of the reasons more people don't know their way around up there.”



In my continuing habit of keeping SJAA members informed of the various neat Moon Things We Can't See, the first of two total lunar eclipses We Can't See will take place May 4. And yeah, I mean the next one will also be invisible to us.

And you have to go to Europe to see all of next month's Venus transit, though people in the eastern half of the US will see something.

For us? Nothing.

The good news is the Moon is expected to make an appearance in May with the first quarter viewing still quite good (high elevations).

Lacking anything important to say, I'll instead mention the Moon segment of the Beginning Astronomy Class: several people managed to stay awake throughout, certainly not due to the scintillation of the speaker but more probably because they were sugar-fueled by M&Ms (Moon Marathon) carrying forward a tradition started by Don Machholtz at his recent and wonderful club talk on the Messier Marathon.

Important Digression: For some years now we've been plagued by the Missing Rukl Atlas. Sky & Telescope (Sky Publications) "took over" the publication of this Extremely Useful - one might say The Standard - reference some years back and celebrated the acquisition by letting it go out of print.

This was back when Mammoths still walked the earth, and there's an annual promise to reissue that frankly, nobody believes any more.

Prove me wrong, Skypubs!

It does leave me, however, with the problem of recommending a book You Can't Get. As an alternative I've often recommended drawing your own maps, which is probably better than anything available anyway (even Rukl).


Because they're hard to read because of all the 'stuff' on them!

When you're first starting out, just learning a few signposts and spotting some easy but nifty objects is best. Some maps are spread out over a million pages (Rukl) and others use ill-organized reference numbers and lists of undescribed features or tiny type with millions of obscure and meaningless names everywhere.

Who needs that?

Sometimes I think the current miasma of Moon maps is one of the reasons more people don't know their way around up there.

But who (other than me?) ever got around to making their own charts? Not very many people.

So finally I made a template, published at where you'll find a jpeg, png or pdf versions. I've already stuck some suggested "starter items" on it primarily with the idea of giving you some landmarks to go by.

Using this or a similar map, you can look at web references, globes, other maps or tea leaves to arrive at a viewing plan for the evening and mark only those things you really want to find.

This makes it a lot easier to navigate at the eyepiece, especially for the beginner.

I'm certain someone else out there could do a much better job and perhaps even have the good taste to not stick any labels at all on it, so if you do please send me the URL and I'll forward it to the membership.

Of course, once you have a master page you can copy it endlessly for each evening you plan to observe. If you use one per lunation, you'll end up with a record of what you looked for that month.

I'm sure you get the idea. I highly recommend giving it a shot.

In other news, I decided to get around to reading John Westfall's "Atlas Of The Lunar Terminator" after staring at it for over a year.

I've been avoiding it because the photographs are, for the most part, inferior by today's standards and the prose about as interesting as my own.

But there was a method to his madness: the actual atlas shots are all author-shot CCD images showing various terminator positions.

For the purposes of the book (to show what's up there and how it sorta looks) they are quite good, and the author's style turns out to be well-suited to introducing the reader to lunar observation in various states and times of the lunation.

It's sort of a well thought-out update of Cherrington's "Exploring The Moon..." and really is a pretty good primer.

I would caution that the atlas images are actually feeble compared to what's visible in most amateur scopes, so don't think that's all you can see.

The upside, of course, is for once you actually can see more than expected.


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