Popular Astronomy

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Partial lunar eclipse well seen (SPA News Circular 270)

The IYA Autumn Moonwatch between 24 October and 1 November appears to have gone down well, regardless of poor weather conditions around parts of the UK for much of the time. Attempts to provide live webcasts of the Moon during the Autumn Moonwatch from my own site in Cornwall were hampered by cloudy skies, although some live images were obtained. Thanks to everyone who got in touch during each of the Moonwatch events of 2009 — I trust that I ‘did my bit’ during this important year.

Appropriately enough, 2009 ended with a lovely partial eclipse of the Moon on 31 December — a so-called ‘blue Moon’ as it was the second full Moon of December. I was unfortunate to have missed out on viewing this event, but there were plenty of reports and some beautiful images sent in by a number of SPA members, including Anthony Ayiomamitis (Greece), Alan Clitherow (Elgin, Scotland), Daniel Coe (Cambridge), Peter Meadows (Chelmsford), Paul Stephens (Long Marston), Julia Wilkinson (Rochdale), Brian Woosnam (North Wales) and Malcolm Zack (my apologies if I’ve neglected to mention anyone else who may have sent in a report). Some of these images will feature in April’s Popular Astronomy.

Below: Julia Wilkinson’s image of the partially eclipsed Moon on the evening of 31 December.

Lunar observational drawings have been sent by Dale Holt (Chipping),  Andrew Johnson (Knaresborough) Sally Russell and Graham Sparrow. Lunar images have been sent by Mike Brown (Huntington), Ed Crandall (USA), Dave Finnegan (Halesowen), Peter Garbett (Sharnbrook), Mike Goodall, Simon Kidd, Brian Ritchie (Caithness) and David Scanlan (Romsey).

Graham is a skilled observer whose observations are accurate and well-executed in pencil. Among his more recent observations are studies of Gemma Frisius (25 September), Hipparchus (25 October), Schiller / Gassendi (both 29 October), Theophilus to Catharina (22 December), Clavius (25 December) and Schickard (28 December). The Theophilus ‘chain’ to the west of Mare Nectaris (Sea of Nectar) is a striking sight when near the morning terminator of a waxing crescent Moon. The trio is next prominent on 19 February. Note how Theophilus, the youngest of the three, overlaps Cyrillus, and how an odd valley joins Cyrillus with Catharina.

Above: The linked crater trio Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catharina are portrayed in this observational sketch by Graham Sparrow, made on 22 December.

Sally’s atmospheric observational drawing of Montes Jura, a mountain range that curves around the northern margin of Sinus Iridum (the Bay of Rainbows) is featured below. Those with good eyesight can discern an irregularity in the terminator with the unaided eye when the mountains are illuminated in this manner — try looking out on the evening of 23 February to catch a similar view.

Added by:  Graham Sparrow