Lunar Observing Primer

Categories: Observing
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Published on: April 29, 2013

The Moon is a great place to hone your observing skills. You can start with binoculars and learn the topography of our nearest neighbor. Using the Lunar 100 Map and the accompanying Lunar 100 List you will learn about 100 of the most interesting features on the near side of the Moon.

When using a telescope to observe the Moon it is best to start out using a low power eyepiece that will show the entire Moon. Center the region you want to view in your low power eyepiece, then change to an eyepiece with a higher power.

It is usually easiest to start observing a Full Moon. The darker areas are called mare or “seas.” The lighter areas are higher land formations including mountain ranges. Craters can be seen in both. Ejecta rays can be seen extending from some craters. The most prominent rays extend from the crater Tycho. They should be easy to find. You may find that a lunar filter will make it easier see details in the lunar surface by reducing its brightness.

As the Moon goes through its phases, the shadow of the Sun travels across the lunar surface. The line where the illuminated area and the shadow meets is called “the terminator.”

Looking at it in your scope will provide many spectacular sights, particularly on mountain peaks and in craters. Near the terminator you may see the sunlight hitting a peak in a crater’s shadow to form a bright dot. Other times you can see a bright streak across a dark crater surface as the sunlight passes through a break in the crater rim. Soon you will become aware of what you can see best during each lunar phase. Although the Lunar 100 Map can assist you in beginning your exploration of Selene, you may want to get a lunar map to guide you in further explorations.

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