GUEST COLUMN: Lunar surface puts me over the Moon

Photo of the Moon, Laura Austin

Laura Austin  

My favourite bright light in the sky is the Moon. It is easy to spot, easy to identify and always puts on a monthly show during its phases.

Day or night the Moon is there.

Some are surprised to look up and see the Moon over Sarnia in the daytime. In fact, it’s visible just as often during the day as at night. A day Moon always looks beautiful and glows bright with a blue sky background.

The Moon is Earth’s only natural satellite. Its phases and orbit are an enigma. It takes 27.3 days for the moon to rotate on its axis and orbit Earth.

Its surface is covered in blemishes. Craters are scattered everywhere, varying in size, almost all were formed by impacts.

One fascinating fact: because the Moon has no weather its craters are exactly the same as when men last walked on its surface.

In 1971, NASA sent astronauts to Sudbury, Ont. to train for the Apollo 16 mission because its terrain at the time most closely resembled the Moon’s. The astronauts learned to recognize the difference between basins created by meteors and basins created by volcanoes.

When the Apollo 16 mission finally made it, Commander John Young held up a piece of the Moon and said, “This looks like Sudbury rock.”

The best time to view the Moon is during the two quarters, not when it’s full. When the surface is fully illuminated it actually appears flat.

The Moon’s texture and surface are most easily seen when the sun’s light reflects from the side, lighting the crevices and revealing their depth.

One awesome effect occurs a few hours before the first quarter and is called a “lunar X.” It occurs when light and shadow creates the appearance of an X on the edge of three craters just below the terminator, which is the boundary between light and shadow. I was lucky enough recently to see it for the first time.

I am always drawn to the Moon. I look up and wonder what this dark spot is, or how wide and deep that crater is. Just to look up and stare at the moon is wonderful, but if you can view it through a telescope, and see the surface saturated with dimples and dusty terrain, it is unforgettable.

I encourage you to take a trip to the Moon from your own Sarnia backyard.  Allow your mind to travel there and let your eyes wander the surface.

There is a lot to explore.

Laura Austin is an amateur astronomer in Sarnia who wishes every night had clear skies for stargazing