Without a doubt, the lunar craters and mountains are the objects on which all budding, high-resolution planetary imagers cut their teeth. The Moon is available all year round (though not always at a decent altitude), it is a huge target to aim at, and the contrast between light and dark regions on the lunar surface far exceeds the contrast available on any other planetary body in the night sky. It is also a rather brighter target than the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, unless the most shadow-filled regions near the terminator are being considered. If we allocate a surface brightness value of 1 to Saturn, the relative brightness of the planets come out approximately as follows: Mercury = 80, Venus = 300, Mars = 15, Jupiter = 3, Saturn = 1, Uranus = 1/4, Neptune = 1/15, and Moon = 3 to 15 (half to full Moon). As we can see, despite its dark albedo (the Moon only reflects 7% of light falling on it) the lunar surface is a nice bright target for our webcams and it contains loads of fascinating objects to image. It is a real test bed on which to perfect our imaging skills.
Was this article helpful?