The moon this week is a beautiful waxing crescent, and that’s an ideal time to take a good long look at it through a small telescope.
If you’re one of the lucky home academies that received a telescope this holiday season (or if you already have one), why not spend some quality time with the moon this week. That’s the advice of the U.S. Naval Observatory in their current issue of “The Sky This Week“:
Luna is a great target for first-time telescope owners. I often say that the Moon is “looked over, then overlooked,” but spending time exploring her many varied surface features can be a wonderful retreat from the constant barrage of the 24-hour news cycle. As our closest neighbor in space even small instruments will show an abundance of detail, and it helps to have an atlas of the Moon handy for your exploration. There are many of these available online. The Moon’s larger features bear names that were for the most part assigned long ago by the first astronomers to gaze on her with crude telescopes. Her darker areas are known as “seas” (“maria” in Latin), “lakes” (“lacus”), “bays” (“sinus”), etc. and bear names like Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains) and Sinus Iridum (Bay of Rainbows). These large-scale features are the remnants of collisions with large asteroids early in the history of the solar system’s formation. Individual smaller craters are named after famous people from classical astronomical literature as well as more modern contributors to lunar science. Each successive night reveals new features along the “terminator” which is the sunrise/sunset line that creeps slowly eastward from our point of view. The low Sun angle along the terminator throws features into stunning relief as ink-black shadows give way to dazzling sunlit terrain. A 3- or 4-inch aperture telescope will show many hundreds of features and terrain textures. Spend some time taking good long looks at our fair neighbor and you’ll want to return each month. (usno.navy.mil)
Our recommended backyard astronomy guide includes a good illustrated introduction to the moon (pages 67–79) that will help you give names to the major craters and seas, and understand the moon’s structure, history, and visible phases. And our recommended world atlas has a magnificent large map of the entire lunar surface, both near-side and far-side.
What celestial sights and astronomical apparitions have you been examining in your homeschool this Orion Term? 🔭
❡ All the star-sown sky: Teaching your students the major constellations and the names of the principal stars is one of the simplest and most enduring gifts you can give them. Our recommended backyard star guide and homeschool world atlas both contain charts of the constellations that will help you learn your way around the heavens. Find a dark-sky spot near you this month and spend some quality homeschool time with your students beneath the starry vault. ✨
❡ Star bright: If you’d like some light and easy homeschool astronomy lessons, download and print a copy of our annual River Houses Star Calendar and follow along with us month by month as we make twelve heavenly friends-for-life over the course of the year. 🌟
❡ The starry archipelagoes: The regular “Sky This Week” posts from the U.S. Naval Observatory, such as the one we quoted above, are published each Tuesday and usually focus on one or two special astronomical events or phenomena. If you have high school science students in your homeschool, why not have them read these well-written pages aloud to you each week, or ask them to study them and then narrate a summary back to you. 🌌
❡ Watchers of the skies: This is one of our regular Homeschool Astronomy posts. Add your name to our free River Houses mailing list and get great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox every week. 🔭