SJAA Ephemeris February 2005 | SJAA Home | Contents | Previous | Next


Bare Mooning

Dave North

Okay, so you got a new telescope and joined the club hoping specifically to get all kinds of information on how to observe the Moon with it because you heard about this wacko who writes a column? Tough. Your new telescope won't help you this month. You're going to have to suffer along with me. I haven't seen the Moon through a telescope (or any other optical device) all month. Christmas preparation, visits to relatives, weather (the worst!) and even New Year's Eve conspired to make it Just Not Happen. Nevertheless, I have seen the Moon several times this month. What did I see? More to the point, what can you see? Well, the phase of course. All the major Maria are obvious: Crisium, Nectaris, Tranquilitatis, Fecunditatis, Frigoris, Meridiani, Imbrium, Nubium, Humorum ... no problem. Oceanus Procellarum is hardly a challenge. Sinus Iridum is a cinch, cutting a cookie out of the Caucasus Mountains. Speaking of mountains, you can sometimes even see the shadow line of the greater ranges such as the Apennines. Keep a sharp eye out for that kind of thing! With some experience you can judge the libration to a fairly accurate degree. I can't, but you can ... In favorable light you can pick up some of the enormous craters. Clavius and Grimaldi are not all that hard, and some of the others can be downright easy with the right light. Picking up the notch of Ptolemaeus isn't all that hard. Fairly often the dark Plato makes a doable target in the wall of Imbrium. I have managed to spot Copernicus unaided, with more than a little trouble. Your eyes may vary. But no matter who you are, you can even pick out some medium and small craters at the right time: near full Moon. When the light is high and the rays stand out, Tycho is downright blinding at the center of its web of rays. Even smaller, Aristarchus can be a bright point in high light, and even tiny Proclus gets easy to spot by following its rays back to their source. Of course you can see eclipses, but for such a special event you really want to use binoculars. (It's all about color and major shapes - there just isn't much detail with no shadows and weak light). And last (and probably least) you can trace out the Giant Rabbit, the Man In the Moon, or whatever fantastic shape you want to make of the markings (personally I see the rabbit more easily than the man). But if you get a chance, use a telescope. If you haven't seen the Moon through one yet, you are not going to need any advice from me to appreciate what you're going to see.

Previous | Contents | Next