15 Day Moon Durrus, West Cork Ireland 26th August 2010 23:05 UT – 00:08 UT
Pastel and conte on black paper 200 mm Dob/ FL 1,200 mm / 32 mm eyepiece
We are privileged to live on a beautiful but fragile planet moving through space at 18.5 miles per second. We are born, live and die here; in our lifetimes we owe it to ourselves to become even a little knowledgeable of our place in the Universe.
Just a small fraction of us ever get to leave the planet and become acutely aware of the startling reality that we do in fact live in space.
We all admire humans and robots who explore off planet, but each of us here on the Earth can still reach out to grab a bit of wonder for ourselves by simply looking up.
Our moon is a beautiful object whether you look at it with an instrument or just by eye.
The Moon is our nearest natural orbiting satellite, so let us stand a while and look at it together.Let’s think about what we see when we gaze upward.
On International Observe the Moon night the moons appearance is described as waxing gibbous. The gibbous shape of the moon on September 18th is exactly in-between the first quarter and full moon. This phase gives us the opportunity to view naked eye most of the Maria. In the northern section close to the terminator, Mare Imbrum, ( The Sea of Rains) just a bit to the right is Mare Serenitatis ,( The Sea of Serenity) below Imbrium is Mare Insularium, (The Sea of Islands ) . Below Serenitatis, is Mare Tranquillitatis (The Sea of Tranquillity), the place where men first stood upon the moon.
Just three days previous most people would refer to it as a half moon but have a think for a minute or two. The Moon is a spherical object, like a ball, it moves around our planet approximately once every twenty nine days. On its journey it presents a different shape to us depending on its position to the sun in relation to the person viewing the near side from Earth. The sun illuminates the moon’s surface and reflects that light towards our eyes. When the moon is at first quarter, half of its surface is lit up by the sun. At all times one half of the moons surfaces is bathed in sunlight while the other half rests in total darkness.
The Earth and the moon do a little orbital dance together which the sun lights up for our pleasure.
This dance involves the larger Earth partner holding the moons near side face towards itself the entire time .The orbital waltz created by the Earth and the moon as they swing around the sun together produces various phenomena during their annual soiree. These include eclipses, both lunar and solar, depending on the angle and varied positions between the three of them, the dancers and their light.
When you use your eyes only to look at the moon on International Observe the moon night, what are you looking at exactly? You will see the moon present itself to you when it is positioned a little more than one quarter way around the Earth. You will see the bright limb of the moon; you will see the line that separates daytime on the moon from night time on the moon. It is called ‘The Terminator’. Look closely and observe the darker markings ‘The Maria’ large lava filled impact basins. You will see the brighter higher areas and maybe if you have good eyesight you will see some of the larger craters and their rays. The lovely small rounded area to the upper right of The Sea of Tranquillity, close to the limb, is Mare Crisium (the sea of crisis).
With even a small pair of binoculars your view will be enhanced with detail. With a telescope depending on the size and quality of the eyepieces your view will be awesome. There is a lifetimes worth of observing to be had with the moon alone. The contrast, the rich lunarscape, the play of light against the blackness of space, it is an exploration adventure available for all to view.
Join me and other amateur astronomers September 18th on Bray Promenade at 7:30 near the Boat House Cafe WEATHER PERMITTING to observe and enjoy the moon.
The Irish Astronomical Society will have a Moon Viewing at the Martello Tower Sandymount , Dublin on September 17th 8pm -10pm All Wellcome Weather Permitting