Welcome! Let me take you on a....
Hey... why don't we take some time, and study one of the most overlooked astronomical targets in the sky? Our very own Moon! Loaded with detail, this "bane" of the amateur astronomer is loaded with fascinating areas to explore!
Let's take a look, shall we?
The dark, smooth Mare Crisium will capture the eye during this phase. And dancing in a chain above it are outstanding craters, Cleomides, Burkhardt, Geminus and Masala. As it approaches the end of the phase, the terminator will pass through Mare Nectaris... not terribly exciting, but well worth a look! And, if you're in the mood for a bit of history, be sure to look for the Taurus-Lithrow Valley, (just off the edge of Mare Serenitatis, and a highly visible mountain -top) the landing site of Apollo 17!
Starting in the north, we come to one of the more beautiful and exciting features... the Alpine Valley. This is easily viewable in the lowest of powers, and awaits your scrutiny! More to the south brings us the the Appennine Mountains. Take your time and explore this fascinating area. It was here in these mountains, Mt. Hadley, to be precise... that the Apollo 15 landed! (I just love the history connected to the Moon!) Continuing southward, we see Mare Tranquillitatis, the famous "home" for the Apollo 11 landing! (Journey into the southern highlands to find the Apollo 16 landing site.) A much more challenging target for this phase appears on day eight... the last day of this phase. Consult with local information for times of appearance, and just try to catch the Straight Wall! Best of luck to you... ;-)
Starting in the south, this is one of the better times to study the detail around Tycho Crater. This is easily recognizable as the moon approaches full (thanks to all the great rays the radiate from it!) but, is best studied when near the terminator. Roughly half-way between the poles is another easily recognizable crater, Copernicus. This landmark is an excellent candidate for high magnification! Now... as the Moon begins to approach "full", is an excellent time to look to the south/west area and the Fra Mauro area to find the Apollo 14 landing area! Then, keep a close look while the terminator moves toward the Oceanus Procellarum area and see if you can pinpoint the Apollo 12 mission site! (Isn't this just great?!!)
As the Moon begins to approach "full" be sure to look at the northern section of the terminator for Aristarchus Crater...and just one day before "full", the most impressive Grimaldi Crater! One of the less viewed areas occurs during this phase... the Mare Humorum area contains many craters to view. Near Copernicus Crater lies the Oceanus Procellarum, and the Marius Hills area. Now, on the the Southern Highlands, and the great Clavius! Fascinating...
It has been my great pleasure over the years to have witnessed many different types of lunar eclipses... partial umbrals and penumbrals and on the night of January 20/21, 2000... a total! There are no words to accurately describe how lovely the Moon is when it nears totality! It very much resembles the "diamond ring" effect of a solar. And how entrancing it was to watch as it left totality... seeing the terminator "race" along the surface... lighting up each crater and mountain range in "fast forward"!
Hey... think there's nothing new and exciting to watch? Then try catching an occulatation! It really doesn't require a great deal of skill... just some patience, practice and persistence! (Ahhhh... the three "P's" of astronomy! How many times have I bored you with that one? ;-) It really is a lot of fun to watch a star "wink out" behind the edge of the Moon... and even more fun trying to predict where it will "reappear"! One of the coolest things I've ever seen was when the Moon occulted Saturn a few years ago! Be sure to use the information on the occultations page, and try this challenge!
So have you had fun on our "Moon Walk"? Well, don't stop here... Be sure to use the Clementine Lunar Image Rover and explore for yourself! There are hundreds of fascinating craters, rilles, rays and mountains that I can't even begin to name... (But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy them!!) Remember, above all... have fun!
Come on now... let's go back "home"!