The Moon Guide
menu divide
menu divide
menu divide
menu divide
menu divide
menu divide
menu divide
menu divide
U. S. N. O.
The phase of the Moon right now

spacer Getting to know the Moon

< Drawing the Moon

The phases of the Moon actually make it easy to learn your way around our nearest neighbour. Because the craters and mountains show up particularly well when they are close to the terminator, or shadow line, you can study a new area each night andget to know a small area at a time. After a while you will get to know the major features and recognise them evan when the illumination is different.

Our guide takes you through the evening phases of the Moon, starting with a thin crescent, but you can start at any point depending on when you happen to be looking. The phases after full Moon are best seen in the morning sky, so they are less often viewed with that illumination, but the features are the same – the only difference is that the light comes from the opposite direction.

The seven seas?
First of all, however, get to know the major dark 'seas' that are most prominent at full Moon. There are actually nine of them, or rather eight seas and one ocean, as shown here. Once you have picked these out, you have a basic framework into which you can insert individual features. 

Even the Moon's southern highlands have a few distinctive features, though they are not as obvious as the seas. They will be described as we come to them. There is just one bright feature marked on this view – the bright crater Tycho.

For a map showing several hundred features, go to our interactive Moon map.

You can see a visualisation of the Moon as it is right now by going to this NASA website which shows the binocular view from the northern hemisphere, or this version which gives the view as seen through a telescope that inverts the view.
Map of the Moon
The Moon's major features

spacer spacer
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

spacerMaintained by SPA Webmaster: Last modified 6 November 2008
International Year of AstronomySociety for Popular AstronomySociety for Popular Astronomy