Visual Observations

For reference at the telescope, it is useful to have a laminated map of the Moon. An excellent inexpensive one with a ten-inch diameter lunar disk is published by Sky Publishing Corp.

To reduce the brightness of the image at low magnifications, a neutral density filter is recommended but a light green or light blue filter will do. At high magnification a filter is not needed. Start by examining the Moon with an eyepiece that will permit the entire image to be included in the field.

After having surveyed the Moon with low power, choose a site to explore at high magnification. Use the highest magnification at which detail is still sharp and well defined. Anything higher is empty magnification.

Every observation of the Moon presents a different vista. The Sun will be at a different position in the lunar sky, illuminating features differently than the last time you saw them. As a particular crater is observed throughout the night, shadows change their shapes and lengths. Objects and small craters previously barely visible may appear on the crater floor. This is particularly true for objects near the terminator.

Rather than going quickly from one object to another, pick out one or two features near the terminator and study the changes. Try sketching them, or at least, writing a description.

When observing the Moon, generally the first questions that come to mind about the craters are about size. How big are they? How deep? How high are those mountains? Of course the answers are in lunar atlases but it's more interesting to measure them yourself. We can determine their dimensions by measuring the lengths of their shadows when they are near the Moon's terminator on prints taken with a digital camera.

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