Well, hello again folks! You know we give credit to Galileo Galilei (1597 – 1681) for his first impressions of the Moon etc.
The Moon – Interesting Bits and Days 6-6½ .
Well, hello again folks! You know we give credit to Galileo Galilei (1597 – 1681) for his first impressions of the Moon etc., through a telescope and the birth of modern astronomy but I believe the honour of the first Moon Map (all be it a very rudimentary affair based on the limited power of the Telescope of that time) has got to go to an English Astronomer in 1609. His name was Thomas Harriot (1560 – 1621). Telescopes advanced rapidly over the following centuries and views of our celestial neighbour, the Moon, have just got better and better. In the late 50’s (around 1959) the Russians
or the then USSR launched Lunar One (1) for the first Lunar fly by. Lunar 2 was launched in September of the same year to impact the Moon and did so in ‘Mare Serenitatis’. It was closely followed by Lunar Three (3) in October 1959 which successfully carried out it’s mission and brought images back to earth of the Moon’s far side. Busy year, eh!
In 1966 we had our first televised look when Lunar Nine (9) beamed images back to earth, but the big break went to the USA in 1969 when Armstrong and Aldrin landed in ‘Mare Tranquilitatis’ on 20th July of that year. Their walk on the moon is now deeply entrenched in our space history and now at this time nearly every country with a space programme has something, doing something around our small neighbour.
‘Clementine’ a USA Space Craft was first (I believe) to laser map the surface in 1994 and the Lunar ‘Prospector’ also from the USA is in Lunar Polar orbit checking out that area for possible water, ice reserves (don’t hold your breath , although I hope I’m wrong).
Once everybody got over the idea that maybe it was the ‘Yanks’ at it again (you know, that was probably done in Hollywood anyway) and realised that the human race was maybe, just maybe, on it’s way at long last. God! What happened! We shot every thing we had at the Moon, both USA and the USSR and then went back to sleep. I thought I would see humans living on the Moon, if not Mars in my life time (maybe just colonies) but I’ve been robbed by forces brought to bare by a few ‘non-believers’, may their socks rot. The old saying, ‘never keep all your eggs in one basket’ has never been more relevant to the whole race than it is now. I wonder did the Dinosaurs feel safe prior to the impactor striking ‘Yucatan Peninsula’ and creating ‘Chicxulub’ crater, 65 million years ago. We need more baskets, folks!
A base on earth’s satellite makes a heap of sense to me as far as further exploration (Mars for example) is concerned because of the lower energy required to escape the Lunar surface as compared to the much higher energy required to achieve escape velocity from earth. I believe the escape velocity needed to leave the Moon is around 2.5km per second (that is really getting along, eh!) That however, would be the main activity on a Moon base for awhile, other than local research at least. There would be no sound at all, so think about all communication outside being done by radio etc., (gives a whole new meaning to singing or talking to one’s self) and if there’s no changes it would be B.Y.O. water in the early stages. Hard to take a shower if the water doesn’t know which way is down because there is hardly any gravity. The only life there would be your’s as they haven’t even found microbic life there as yet and maybe never will. There has been 300 kilograms of Moon rocks brought back to earth. I suppose hopping around the place would be fun but don’t break anything as your only help would be your co-astronauts. That gives a whole new meaning to ‘team effort’ doesn’t it?
There is one thing the Moon has in common with some spots on earth however, dust. The surface is covered by a layer of the stuff. This dust seems to ‘suspend’ at about a metre or so above the surface. I remember reading about it some time ago and it’s a real problem. Gets into and on to everything (imagine some of the technical gear these chaps would have) and the stuff ‘dust’ is a very dirty, grey-black colour, lovely!
Enough of that, we’ve got a ‘Terminator’ to follow, so let’s get on with that. Starting at the southern ‘Cusp’ on day 6-6½ we have two (2) craters just seen on Day 6 but quite open on Day 6½ are ‘Manzinus’ and ‘Mutus’ at diameters of 79km and 76km respectively. The sun seems to strike the western edge of Day 6 craters really well (maybe it’s just me, oh well!). ‘Hommel’ is a very large crater at 120km and has been impacted a few times by smaller objects. ‘Pitiscus’ at 82km has a nice central peak and is surrounded by a myriad of smaller craters. Further to the north we have two (2) smaller craters in ‘Rothman’ and ‘Pons’ which share size at around 42kms and the ‘Altia Range’ is just spellbinding at the eye-piece. To wander along the ‘scarp’ from ‘Piccolomini’, discussed on Day 5, all the way down towards ‘Tacitus’ at 40km, is without a doubt one of the main features of these two (2) days. Three really large craters now take centre stage. They appear in a sort of semi-circle around the western edge of ‘Mare Nectaris’. ‘Theophilus’, the third in line, has a really nice central nountain and seems to everlap ‘Cyrillus’ (middle) with it’s smaller peak and rougher bottom. ‘Catharina’ the first or southern most of the three is somewhat more damaged in appearance. The three come in at 101, 93 and 104kms respectively and are stand out features, well worth prolonged study. Three small craters, ‘Sabine’, ‘Argo’ and ‘Ross’ along with Rilles, Ghost Craters and Volcanic Domes we’ve already covered on Day 5.
‘Plinius’ is a very good example at 43km of a medium crater (it is also my nickname for my neighbour) with the sun on it’s western lip. A Rille can be seen just to the north-west on the upper or southern edge of ‘Serpentine Ridge’. This spectacular ridge runs most of the way through ‘Mare Serenitatis’ and seems to fork at the northern end west of ‘Posidinus’ (101km, Day 5). The ridge is prominent on both 5-6 days and comes in at approx. 250kms. ‘Menelaus’ is a small crater at 26km, best seen around Day 6½ and further west is the ‘Haemus Mts’. These mountains are only just appearing on the Terminator Day 6½ and are better seen about Day 7 or so. ‘Bessel’ at 16km is a very sharp little crater - seemingly in the middle of nowhere in ‘Mare Serenitatis’. The area around it being very smooth, in appearance to the eye (somewhat different in large scopes) on Days 6½ - 7 of the Terminator. To the north of ‘Mare Serenitatis’ is an area known as ‘Lacas Somniorun’ and to the west of that you can see the ‘Caucasus Mts’. These are very impressive at a length of 445km and height of about 4½ - 5km and once again probably better viewed on Day 7.
‘Lacus Mortis’ wedged in between ‘Lacus Somniorum’ and ‘Mare Frigorus’ andjust to the west of ‘Herculed’ crater is home to a small but well formed crater ‘Burg’ with a Rille to the west of that. We have two (2) medium but fairly ordinary craters (if that’s possible) to round out travels on Day 6½. These are ‘Eudoxus’ at 67km and ‘Aristoteles’ at 88km. These are two (2) simply amazing craters to view in an even more amazing area. Extraordinarily rugged and beautiful, from a lunar point of view. Spend some time there.
Well, that appears to be it for this segment. Our next day or so is pretty busy so I’ll se you all then.
This is fun, eh!
Usual thanks to my friends at:
www.astrovisuals.com.au - for spectacular Moon Maps
Atlas of the Southern Night Sky – Steve Massey & Steve Quirk
Exploring the Moon – Steve Massey
Once again, many thanks.