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The Warthog

Warthog on the Moon

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We had a clear, cold day today, and when the sun set it didn't seem too cold, so I set out the mount and put the Newt on it. This is the first time since November that I have put the scope out, and it is also a test for the motors that I put on the mount just after Christmas.

When the sky had pretty much darkened up, I took the eyepiece case out, and popped in the 4.3mm W70 (175x) and headed to Mare Crisium. I was finding it difficult to focus though, so I put in the 7.5mm SWA (100x) and proceeded to have a look. The surface was fairly swimming, so I decided to go back inside to let the scope cool some more. Also I should mention that the transparency was just awful, no cloud as such, but a fairly thick atmosphere with few stars visible.

I went out after another half hour or so, and began to walk along the terminator. I like this part of the Moon, and don't feel I get to visit it often enough. There are some details on the floor of Crisium that it is already too late to see, so I'll have to wait until April when the evenings are warmer. It was -11 tonight, but the wind was a lot less than it was last night, and the fence and surrounding neighbourhood did a good job of sheltering me.

I had spent a little time on VMA while I was inside, so I quickly identified Theophilus, just at the edge of the terminator. Tomorrow it will be part of the charming chain of Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catharina, one of the prominent triples of the eastern Moon. To the south and a bit away from the terminator is Piccolomini, a Tycho-like crater with a central peak, and south and southwest of it, Stiborius and Rothmann, and farther west, on the terminator the craggy confusion of Rabbi Levi, Zagut and whatchamacallit, er, Lindenau. Notice another nice round crater with a central peak to the east of Piccolomini - this is Neander, smaller but as neat as Piccolomini. Continue in that direction and a little south and you will see a distinct valley with scalloped edges, and a crater at each end and off to opposite sides. This is Vallis Rheita, and the northern crater is Rheita. It is, as it appears, a chain of overlapping craters, in a more or less straight line. I think they must have fallen at the same time, in a row. Now, I don't think this feature was just put there, but I haven't noticed it before. I may have seen it, but seeing something and noticing it are two different things.

Get any farther south than that, and you begin to get into the incredible confusion of craters in the southern part of the Moon. So, I moved north.

Going north from Theophilus we are looking at smaller craters on the floor of Mare Tranquillitatis, the first noticeable one is Toricelli, and about the same distance farther north is Maskelyne. Hop over to Sinas, only 14km across, but easy because of its isolation, and on to an interesting mountainous area surrounded by Vitruvius, Maraldi and Littrow, which form a triangle with Maraldi at the apex. The area in between contains some less obvious craters, and the ground in the middle looks to me like a clump of cauliflower florets.

About two thirds of the way between this and the northern limb is a neat chain of three craters, lying on a SE to NW line. The southernmost is Grove, and the northernmost Burg. In the middle, my chart gives Plana, a larger, older crater lying just off the line, but the one that caught my eye is Mason, a newer crater (it has damaged the walls of Plana) right in the line of three. I would have judged these craters to be 30 to 40 km in diameter, and it turns out I would have been right. Burg has a central peak, I'm not sure if Mason does, and I'm pretty sure Grove doesn't.

Anyway, that was all the fun I could stand in these temperatures. I have a backache now from standing around in the cold, even with my parka on. The next few days are going to be carp for seeing, too. These observatons were all done with my 150mm Newtonian, at 100x, using my 7.5mm Speers-WALER ep.

The motors did a great job of keeping the moon in view, and were eerily silent. I could wish for a faster slew speed, though. I had made a pretty good guess at north when I set the scope up, and I was using the motors to move back and forth on the surface, so I wasn't bothered by drift. I'm happy. The cold was enought to make the focuser stiff, but not unreasonably so. I had no problem at all with dewing, but I had to pay attention to not breathing on anything I wanted to see through again.

Roll on spring!

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I found that really helpful thanks. I was looking at the moon for a short while until it went behing some trees, I was also using a 6" Newt (C6-N). I was looking at a crater with a peak in it and did not know what it was. From your report it seems like it was Neander that I was looking at, it was very clearly defined.

I thought I was cold last night and it was only 2 degrees, -11 takes some dedication!!

Thanks

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Great report WH - I stand in awe at your knowledge of the moon's details and how you can name so many features. I think I will start paying a bit more attention to the moon rather than lamenting it's presence - especially when it's full.

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Sam, worth checking out the <a href=http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/objects/moon/3308811.html>Lunar 100</a>. I'm pretty carp at it, and have so far managed to tick off 3 out of 100. Bearing in mind, number 1 is "the moon" and number 2 is earthshine, I'm not doing well. I might use Warthogs description tonight and try and get a few more though.

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Thanks John, I've done 2 :D - the moon and earthshine last night :D

WH - you post is going to be a bit like a tutorial for me in lunar observing!

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The reason I can name so many features is that I do my observing with a lunar map in one hand. I do actually know the names of some of them cold, but there are just too many to remember them all. The great pleasure for me is being able to identify things on the map with things I can actually see on the surface. There were a couple of things, Mason for example, that I had to come inside and look up on VMA to find out what they were.

One thing about this though, is that the exercise of naming the features increases the number of things I will be able to name without reference to the map, next month. If I can find my lunar 100, I think I had about 30 ticked off last time I looked. One of them was up in the 90's, but I just happened to have seen it.

Paul, I think you may have been looking at Piccolomini, as Neander was getting a bit washed out. However, Piccolomini was only a short distance from the terminator, and very clear. Neander was further back, about half the size of Piccolomini, but still easy, so it may have been Neander, too.

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WH, Therein lies the secret. I've tried to reconcile what I've seen in the scope with VMA and other sources, I just can't get them to make a sensible overlap, so i can see craters ... But I can't tally them up.

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Part of the problem with VMA and other maps is that they seem to be drawn or photographed under 'average' conditions of illumination, and what you see on the Moon is not under average illumination. I had to check and recheck Piccolomini because I couldn't reconcile the rough country west of P. on the terminator with what I had on the map. Finally, looking at stuff in every direction, I was satisfied that it couldn't be anything else. I have seen P. before, but not under these exact conditions of illumination, and it has been three months since I had the scope on the Moon, so I've gotten a little out of practice. I also had a tough time with Maraldi and company, particularly with Littrow, as there are a few craters in the area, and although Littrow was the most obvious, it was hard to decide which one it was. Add to that the fact that various maps put the labels in different places, and you have a lot of deciding to do.

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Thanks WH, wonderful tour! :thumbup:

There are four brilliant 'pyramids' just west of the Vitruvius-Maraldi-Littrow area.. were they illuminated yet when you were out? The Apollo 17 landing site is nestled above one of the peaks, and the entire area presents a very striking view. (Here's a really bad image.. Vitruvius is at the bottom and Littrow is at the top.)

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Excellent report, WH! Observing the Moon is a treat, but doing it with a map is a completely different challenge, given the lighting differences, as you mention. It's as I always say, you'll learn it slowly, as you do when moving to a new community. First, the grocery, next, the druggist, then the movie theaters etc.

Your descriptions are very helpful in showing a progression from one feature to the next. Gives people a sense of wandering about the surface, as it should be. Wonderful!

Thanks.

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Thank you, AM. It was nice to just get out and looking through a scope. From the weather forecast it looks like the only possible observing day coming up will be Saturday, at -7. It's warmed up to -6 today, going to -3 tomorrow, but the trend for the next little while is below average temperatures and cloud. I hate winter, but I couldn't live without it. I feel cheated if we have a winter like two years ago, with almost no snow.

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I think the most important thing you are doing here WH. Is bringing to the fore to all who read your report , the awareness that moon is not merely for looking at, or imaging, but also to be studied. As you have demonstrated in your descriptive tour, there is so much not just to see, but to look for. Lunar observations should be planned in advance, as the shadow of the terminator advances and then recedes across the lunar surface. A good lunar map, and lots of patience and dedication, can give an observer of the moon, work for half a lifetime.

Sir Patrick Moore is a prime example. I wonder if the moon ever had a better devotee.

This is a great subject WH, and it deserves applause.

Ron. :D

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Paul, I think you may have been looking at Piccolomini, as Neander was getting a bit washed out. However, Piccolomini was only a short distance from the terminator, and very clear. Neander was further back, about half the size of Piccolomini, but still easy, so it may have been Neander, too.

Yes I think you might be right. The one I saw was very close to the terminator. I see VMA mentioned a few times, I am now downloading this and looking forward to the next session looking at the moon.

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