On a recent trip up to the urban jungle, my daughter and I hit the local science center for a morning of wasting time while mama was at work, and there happened to be a couple booths set up with all kinds of information about space. While my daughter was making a spaced theme picture by gluing on various stars, moons and space shuttles onto construction paper, one of the nice ladies gathered up an entire armload of literature and freebies to give to me for my daughter. Among the literature was a little magazine about the phases of the moon and the names of various lunar features and it really caught my eye.
First Quarter Moon
I don't spend nearly as much time as I should gazing up at the moon, or the stars for that matter, and I can probably county the number of times I have looked at the moon under magnification on one or perhaps two fingers. I just haven't been in the right place at the right time, i.e. knowing someone with a nice telescope that has time on a clear night to set it up. But if I ever get a chance, this guide would be a good thing to take along in my back pocket.
Waxing Gibbous Moon
One of the big things I learned by reading through this magazine was that if you want to see the features of the moon like craters and such, you need to look at the moon sometime when it isn't a full moon. One would think that when the moon is at its fullest and thus brightest would be the best time but as it turns out and is pretty obvious on retrospect, looking at the moon is just like photography. If you want to see the features of something, you can't look at it when the light is shining straight at it and thus washing out all the detail. Thus when you look at all the pictures, the most feature detail is on the side of the moon closest too being in earth's shadow. This magazine didn't contain a picture comprised of superimposed images of that sliver overlaid on each other to give a 'full' moon view in full detail but I expect it has been done.
The full moon does make for some useful viewing though if you are into looking for ancient lava flows and rays of comet impacts. Tycho seen above is especially visible during the full moon. Evidently one of our lunar rovers landed on the rim of Tycho and found the dark circle immediately around the rim to be glassy impact-melted rock. It also says that the rays are only temporary and disappear in only a billion years or so as the shattered and pulverized rock in the ray darkens with prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Waning Gibbous Moon
Looking at these pictures has reawakened within me a call to remedy my situation of living in town where all nights skies are washed out with the general light pollution. It always startles me a bit when I am down on the family farm after dark and see how bright and intense the stars and moon appear in the darkened sky compared to in town where you can only see the moon and a handful of the brightest stars. Perhaps when my daughter is just a little bit older and less restless, I need to schedule a star/moon gazing trip down to the family farm.