To mark the International Year of Astronomy, a team of British astronomers made the largest lunar image in history and gained a place in the Guinness Book of Records! The whole image comprises 87.4 megapixels with a Moon diameter of 9550 pixels. This allows details as small as 1km across to be discerned!
The superb quality of the image is shown by the detail below of Plato and the Alpine Valley. Craterlets are seen on the floor of Plato and the rille along the centre of the Alpine valley is clearly visible.
The team of Damian Peach, Pete lawrence, Dave Tyler, Bruce Kingsley, Nick Smith, Nick Howes, Trevor Little, David Mason, Mark and Lee Irvine, and Ninian Boyle captured video sequences from which 288 individual mozaic panes were stitched together to form the lunar image.
Plato (left) and the Alpine Valley Rille (right)
September 9th and 22nd, look out for The Alpine Valley
These are good nights to observe this interesting feature on the Moon with binoculars or a small telescope. Close to the limb is the Appenine mountain chain that marks the edge of Mare Imbrium. Towards the upper end you should see the cleft across them called the Alpine valley, about 7 miles wide and 79 miles long.
While September 16th brings the “Harvest Moon”
To astronomers this means something very specific, the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the September equinox, the moon becomes full at the instant when the moon is 180 degrees from the sun in ecliptic – or celestial – longitude.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND WHAT MAKES THE HARVEST MOON DIFFERENT?
The Moon’s orbital motion (combined with the larger orbit of the Earth around the Sun) carries it farther eastward among the constellations of the zodiac from night to night. At any one moonrise, the Moon occupies a particular place on the celestial sphere (the great dome of the heavens), but when the Earth turns toward that point 24 hours later, the Moon has moved off to the east about 12 degrees, and it takes an average of 50 minutes longer for the Earth to rotate toward the Moon and for the Moon thus to “rise.”
But around the date of the Harvest Moon, the Moon rises about the same time. It may almost seem as if there are full Moons multiple nights in a row!
Why? Because the zodiac is the band of constellations through which the Moon travels from night to night. The section of the zodiac band in which the full Moon travels around the start of autumn is the section that forms the most shallow angle with the eastern horizon. Because the Moon’s orbit on successive nights is more nearly parallel to the horizon at that time, its relationship to the eastern horizon does not change appreciably, and the Earth does not have to turn as far to bring up the Moon.
Find a good moon map, and identify craters, rilles, and wrinkle ridges on the moon for yourself!
Get out there and enjoy the Autumn night sky!