Viewing the Moon

Even small telescopes can reveal an enormous amount of detail on the surface of the Moon. We have provided you with handouts describing some of the most interesting features. You can simply look through the telescope and try to find which of the features in the map are illuminated by the Sun. But if you like drawing, try making a sketch of the Moon. Here we offer some ideas about how to proceed.

We have given you a circular outline to represent the Moon's disk (not the circular field of view of the telescope). Use pencil. Sketch with lines (for sharp boundaries or features) and shading. Use blank paper to represent bright features, and pencil for dark features like shadows. Start by drawing the terminator, which provides a useful reference for further sketching. Craters and mountains stand out best along the terminator. Then draw the outlines of the major maria. Shade them a bit; they should look a little darker than the surrounding highlands. Next sketch the rayed craters. Here we have a complication: the rays are as bright as the highlands. You can make an exception here, and choose to draw rays in dark pencil; you may want to make an explanatory note about this if you wish. Finally, you can draw a few of the largest unrayed craters, perhaps those with prominent central peaks; any prominent mountain ranges; and any other features you find remarkable. Do not attempt to draw every crater, because that would be a never ending task.

Always label your sketch with date, time, telescope/eyepiece/filter used, location and name of the observer. Be sure to add the direction of North in your sketch. Then you can try to identify and label the features you found by comparing to the map of the Moon we have provided.

Now you can try to find out what is the meaning of the information you have collected. For example, read carefully the section of the book "Stars and Planets" that deals with the Moon. Why are the maria darker than the highlands? How were the craters formed? Which features are younger? How can you tell age by visual inspection? What are the rays? Write a short text explaining what you learned.


Roberto H. Méndez (

Last modified: October 24, 2005