The fascinating hobby of Moon study: Part 2

Image source: Wikimedia

“The Moon is the most interesting object for observation by amateur astronomers.” This quotation from Antonín Rükl comes from the jacket of his book, “Atlas of the Moon” (Kalmbach Publishing, 1992). For anyone intending to study the Moon seriously, this book is recommended. The somewhat abrupt quotation contains much truth, both because of the Moon’s nearness to Earth and the variety of things to study about it.

In my earlier article about the Moon, I suggested viewing the full Moon with binoculars as it rises in the east. That has been an especially awesome experience for me and I recommend it to others who may wish to learn more about the Moon. If you wish to study the Moon and would welcome some ideas, I will suggest a few:

First, as the Moon goes through its phases — waxing crescent, first quarter, full, third quarter, and waning crescent — study its features: the craters, mountains and dark areas. Each night will be a different show; different areas will become more obvious as they become illuminated, while other areas will fade out. This may seem strange, but it becomes understandable when you see it. I believe that binoculars are of great importance in this endeavor.

Second, photograph the Moon. There are many resources to get one started. Many are available from the libraries in Wausau, Merrill, and other cities. Keith Kleinstick, a member of our astronomy club, has specialized in the photography of astronomical constellations, star clusters, and the Moon. Keith resides in Edgar, Wisconsin and would be happy to share ideas with folks who are interested.

Third, use binoculars to sketch the major moon features: craters, mountains, seas (beginning with the Latin name mare), and rays from craters. These have resulted from gigantic explosions as meteoroids have impacted the Moon. For this study, I would suggest that you start by drawing circles on you sketchbook of a size that you prefer. You could use cans in your cupboards as templates for these, or perhaps you could use an old compass from high school days. Place a table — perhaps a card table — outside, with a comfortable chair that one may lean back on. In my case, I use an old wheelchair with a fabric back that comfortably supports my back at different viewing angles. Have your binoculars handy, as well as your sketching pencil and the kind of paper you choose to use. Sketching the Moon can bring much satisfaction because one must note many details to make a good sketch. One more idea: The Moon becomes very bright as it leaves the crescent phase on the way to its full phase. Some astronomy supply companies sell moon filters for both binoculars and telescopes to reduce the glare. These make viewing the Moon much more comfortable, particularly for an extended time on a given night.

Fourth, a long time ago I decided to study the lives of the people for whom the craters are named. I believed that would help me understand more of moon geography, and the histories of the astronomers, mathematicians, philosophers, and lunar explorers that are featured in the names of hundreds of craters. Some of the crater names, for example, are Aristarchus (astronomer), Plato (philosopher), Herodotus (historian), and Freud (psychologist).

My long-time friend Ronald Ostromecki showed me his copy of “Atlas of the Moon.” As it turned out, the author had done a lot of the research I had planned to do. There are 76 maps of the Moon’s surface with a short biography of the person that each crater is named after. The book is an amazing resource. I obtained my copy for $35 and it is worth every cent. The book is out of print now and the price may be higher these days. Another nice resource is “The Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky” (Mark Chartrand, 1991).

Praise to the Creator of Everything!