Explore the Moon—a beginner's lunar observing program NEW!
This observing program bridges the gap between the introductory Explore the Universe Observing Program and the more challenging Isabel Williamson Lunar Observing Program. It is ideal for beginning observers who are just learning about telescopes and binoculars, by providing a hands-on observing experience on an easy object—the Moon. The telescope progam is based on the 94 lunar features listed and charted in the RASC Observer's Handbook, originally selected by Roy Bishop, who was Handbook editor for 19 years. There is also a binocular prgram consisting of a reduced set of 40 features. Explore the Moon was field-tested in 2012–2015 by several beginning observers in the RASC Halifax Centre, some of whom went on to complete other RASC observing programs. At this time, only English iversions are available; we hope to offer both programs in French, in due course. We welcome feedback from observers!
Why Observe the Moon?
This may seem like a funny question. Many amateur astronomers, however, shun the Moon. It is true that moonlight interferes with the enjoyment of observing and photographing the “faint fuzzies,” which are deep-sky objects. A better option is to remain calm and observe the Moon on those nights when it dominates the sky. Here’s a list of benefits of lunar observing, particularly for beginning observers:
- It’s easy to find!;
- You can observe from home, even in the city—no need to travel to a dark-sky site;
- The Moon is bright, offering plenty of detail, even in small telescopes or binoculars;
- Observing the Moon is ideal for learning how to operate your telescope and binoculars;
- Finding the principal features is not hard, so you can learn observing skills;
- It’s our nearest celestial neighbour!
Explore the Moon Program Guide
The two program guides are self-contained, including a table of features, locations, and brief descriptions, plus enlargements of the Handbook maps (both standard view and mirror-reversed view, to match the observer's optics). There are suggested additional resources and step-by-step instructions on how to plan and carry out observing sessions (see below for a Photographic Album of EtM Features). The lunar features are ordered so that they can be observed night-to-night in order of their appearance during the waxing phases of the Moon (and they can also be observed disappearing during the waning phases). This program introduces the Q-day method of finding lunar features and timing observing sessions according to how many days it is before or after the First or Last Quarter of the Moon (this is unique to the RASC).
Planning, Observing, and Recording
All the information you need is in the Explore the Moon Program Guide. There is no set recording or reporting format, but if you want to apply for the Explore the Moon certificate, you must keep a record of the date and time of observations, the sky conditions, the telescope or binocular characteristics, the magnification, and any observing remarks or details noticed. You are encouraged to include drawings or photographs, but it is not at all mandatory. You could use the table in the guide itself as a checklist of completed observations. Consider setting up a separate logbook for Explore the Moon, for ease of validation. Consider using the generic RASC Visual Observing Log. In the attachments below, there is a spreadsheet cross-referencing this program with the Isabel Williamson Lunar Observing Program and other information, including chart numbers in two lunar atlases.
RASC Explore the Moon Certificate
You must be an RASC member in good standing to receive a certificate. There are two ways to apply, using the application form below: (1) send the completed form to the Chair of the RASC Observing Committee (address on form) along with a copy of your logbook (or other record of detailed observations), including: date, time, location, instrument, magnification, brief description, and a sketch (optional) or photograph (optional) OR (2) have your detailed observations authenticated by two RASC witnesses, and then send the completed form to the Chair.
Contact the Observing Committee chair firstname.lastname@example.org