The Moon Guide
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The phase of the Moon right now

Phase
 
spacer Drawing the Moon

< Binoculars and telescopes

Most lunar observers today regard the telescope eyepiece as if it were the porthole of their very own spacecraft hovering over the Moon. Many observers like to keep some kind of permanent record of their forays around the Moon’s surface by sketching what they can see through the eyepiece.

Drawing of Plinius
Stages of a drawing of
Plinius using a tablet PC
Modern lunar observers are fully aware that the Moon’s surface has been imaged by space probes in great detail, so sketching the Moon might appear to be a pointless activity. But there are many good reasons why drawing the Moon – difficult and time consuming it may sometimes be – is an activity worth pursuing. Lunar drawing is an immensely rewarding activity which improves every single aspect of an observer’s skills. By making drawings, the observer learns to attend to detail instead of allowing the eye to wander onto the more obvious features. The apparent confusion of the Moon’s landscape, with all its odd tongue twisting names, becomes increasingly familiar.

Have confidence in your own drawing abilities, and disregard everything your art teacher ever told you if your artistic experience at school wasn’t a positive one. The lunar observer isn’t some kind of weird nocturnal art student and marks aren’t given for artistic flair. Observational honesty and accuracy counts above all.

Pencil sketches
Equip yourself with a small torch, a set of soft leaded pencils ranging between HB to 5B and an A5-sized pad of smooth cartridge paper. When the Moon is sharply focused in the eyepiece don’t be intimidated by the sheer wealth of detail on offer. First, it is important to orientate yourself. If you aren’t sure what features you’re looking at, find your bearings with a good map of the Moon. Your eye will probably be drawn to the Moon’s terminator where most detail is visible because of the low angle at which sunlight illuminates that region. The area you choose to draw should ideally be quite small, such as an individual crater. If a feature you have chosen to draw is not marked on the map then make a note of nearby features which can be identified and indicate their positions in relation to the unknown area.

Basic outlines are first drawn lightly, using a soft pencil, giving you the chance to erase anything if need be. Try not to make your drawing too large or too small – a sketch of around 100 mm in diameter is a good size. When shading dark areas try to put minimal pressure onto the paper. The darkest areas of shadow are ideally shaded in layers, and not in a frenzy of pencil pressure. The most important thing is to be patient – a rushed sketch will be less accurate and less satisfying. Set yourself about an hour or two for each drawing session.

Unusual and interesting features should be highlighted by making short written notes. It is up to the observer to decide how lengthy or detailed these notes will be. My own preference is to make sure the drawing does most of the talking by making as good a job of it as I can, writing just a few relevant lines at the eyepiece to point out any aspects which cannot adequately be conveyed in the sketch. Only when seated comfortably indoors do I begin to make comprehensive written observing summaries.

Next to the drawing note the usual important observing information, such as date, start and finish times (UT), instrument and seeing. Other information, like Sun’s selenographic colongitude, may be calculated and written into the observing notes when indoors.

Line drawing
Features can be depicted in simple line form as an alternative to making shaded drawings. Bold lines represent the most prominent features like crater rims and the sharp outlines of black lunar shadows. However, the depiction of lunar mountains as upturned ‘V’ shapes is okay for cartoons but should be avoided by the lunar observer. If, say, a section of the drawing is full of rough terrain, label it as ‘rough terrain’ - don’t attempt to depict it as being rough by filling the area with a mass of dots and jagged squiggles. More subtle features like low lunar domes and delicate detail are best recorded with light thin lines. Dashed lines can show features like rays and dotted lines can mark the boundaries of areas of different tone. The brightness of various areas in a line drawing can be given a number value, from 0 for the darkest areas to 10 for the brightest:

0 Black -- for the darkest of lunar shadows
1 Very dark greyish black -  dark features under extremely shallow illumination
2 Dark grey  - the southern half of Grimaldi’s floor
3 Medium grey -  the northern half of Grimaldi’s floor
4 Yellow grey (subtle) -  general tone of area west of Proclus
5 Pure light grey  - general tone of Archimedes’ floor
6 Light whitish grey -  the ray system of Copernicus
7 Greyish white  - the ray system of Kepler
8 Pure white  - the southern floor of Copernicus
9 Glittering white -  Tycho’s rim
10 Brilliant white  - the bright central peak of Aristarchus

Line drawings require more descriptive notes than a tonal pencil drawing. The line drawing method is quicker and requires the minimum of drawing ability, but when it’s done properly it can be as accurate and as full of information as any toned pencil drawing.

Observing notes by Peter Grego


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Crescent Moon

Observing the Moon

Moon lighting

'Seas' and mountains

How much can you see?

Using binoculars and telescopes

Drawing the Moon

Getting to know the Moon

Three-day crescent Moon

Six-day crescent Moon

First-quarter Moon

Gibbous Moon

Interactive Moon map

 
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