Come for the HighRes, stay for the history… Goodnight moon and other lunar atlases.
June 22, 2010 10:00 PM   Subscribe

Goodnight moon;
In the dawn of the Space Age, NASA undertook to find and assemble the very best images of the Moon it could find. In a project led by the late Gerard Kuiper of the University of Chicago (later of the University of Arizona), the best telescopic plates from observatories around the world were assembled into one compilation, the Photographic Lunar Atlas (Kuiper et al., 1960, University of Chicago Press). This atlas consisted of loose-leaf, printed (lithographed) sheets of telescopic plates of the Moon, showing the surface at a variety of illumination conditions. Widely distributed, this atlas served as the basis for many early photographic studies of the Moon.
Over the ensuing years, two supplements were issued to this atlas: an orthographic atlas (Kuiper et al., 1961, University of Chicago Press) that assigned coordinates and names to lunar features, and a rectified atlas (Whitaker et al., 1963, University of Arizona Press) in which telescopic images were projected onto a blank sphere and photographed from above, yielding a "spacecraft view" perspective. But the acme of telescopic lunar atlases came with the publication of the third and fourth supplements, the Consolidated Lunar Atlas (CLA) (Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, 1967). This atlas was a collection of very high quality, loose-leaf photographic prints of all of the best images taken from Earth-based telescopes. As it was made up of photographs, and not printed, this atlas was reproduced in limited quantities and distributed to members of the space community to support the upcoming Apollo missions to the Moon. Few intact copies of the CLA have survived; it has become one of the scarcest of all lunar publications, with used copies found in some rare book stores going for thousands of dollars.

Although we have had several orbital missions that took pictures of the Moon, ranging from Lunar Orbiter to Apollo to Clementine, even today, the CLA is of great scientific value. It shows the nearside of the Moon under a wide variety of illumination conditions, from sunrise to sunset. Images from the various space missions show the Moon under whatever lighting conditions occurred during the mission. Lunar Orbiter photographed the Moon under early-morning conditions while Clementine took its images under the glare of lunar noon. Both lighting conditions give different information, and the CLA helps to bridge the information gap by showing regions on the Moon at all possible Sun illumination angles.

Amateur astronomers have known for years that the CLA is a superb resource, and knowledgeable lunar scientists and observers use the atlas to this day. Until now, its rarity has hindered its widespread use. Eric Douglass has done the astronomical and lunar scientific communities a great service by rendering the CLA images into digital form. For Eric, this labor of love has resulted in a product that we can all use and treasure for a long time to come. This atlas joins the Digital Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Moon as an online resource that researchers, observers, and students will consult for years to come.

That’s no our Moon

Part I, low-oblique photography
Part II, full-moon photography
List of plates, tabular
List of plates, positional
Thumbnails of entire collection
Original CLA Booklet

Further Links:

Lunar Map Catalog

Apollo Image Atlas

Lunar Map Catalog
Educator Resources
Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Moon Gallery
Apollo Surface Panoramas

Ranger Photographs of the Moon
posted by infinite intimation (12 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
D2 C1760 1966 May 6d 8h 36.4m UT 103.6° +5.2° +0.5°
A1 Date: 1938 Jun 3d 04h 00m UT
Earth! is Beautiful. (face)

Applo 13 70mm Hasselblad
Luckily space is just a door ;)

Don’t miss the
Apollo 15 camera angles map
Apollo 17 camera angles map

(Background information on the Apollo, including directions to each landing site, and stats about payloads and distance travelled).
Two current favorite Zoom and Pan images of Moon Landings
The Next MMO ‘world’ map?

Even more water on the moon?
McCubbin's team utilized tests that detect elements in the parts per billion range. Combining their measurements with models that characterize how the material crystallized as the Moon cooled during formation, they found that the minimum water content ranged from 64 parts per billion to 5 parts per million. The result is at least two orders of magnitude greater than previous results from lunar samples that estimated water content of the Moon to be less than 1 part per billion.

Ranger slideshow on high bandwidth feels a little like flying over moon.

posted by infinite intimation at 10:01 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Pareidolic atlas?

posted by not_on_display at 10:34 PM on June 22, 2010

Great post.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:57 PM on June 22, 2010

This probably wont get a ton of comments because there's not much controversy or lolls in the topic, but seriously -- great job. My uncle gave me a couple NASA 8x10 glossies of the moon that were obviously prints from negative back in the 70's. They hung on my wall for most of my adolescence & teen years.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:47 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by Pendragon at 2:58 AM on June 23, 2010

If you want to be seriously blown away, download Celestia, and then download the 32k normal maps and the 32k surface maps (all 1.x GB of them at every level), and then watch the sunlight pass over the tips of the craters as the moon passes from night to day.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:13 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

OK, moon people, can you point me to the exact opposite of these very detailed maps and images? I'm looking for simplified, printable maps of the moon that I can use to memorize the major features: maria, mainly, and big craters. Stuff you can see with the naked eye or basic binoculars. And maybe some stuff about how these things were construed by people a long time ago as the man in the moon, a rabbit, etc. (Which real feature was seen as which imagined part of the rabbit, etc.) Moon stuff for people who step outside and look up at the moon, not for people who buy big telescopes and make a project of observing it.
posted by pracowity at 6:57 AM on June 23, 2010

pracowity, if you go here (My-Moon [the links are on the 'posters']) select the 'world tales of the moon' which has something similar to what you ask about in terms of Oral Moon Stories.

Moon Mythology, More mythology, Lunar Deity-
The Moon and Sun were at one time equally bright. It not being appropriate for gods to be equals, one of them threw a rabbit in the face of the other, and the one struck darkened to become today's moon. Henceforth it's possible to distinguish a figure of a rabbit on the moon's surface. During a full moon, the "Rabbit in the Moon" becomes readily visible.
For finding things to observe, possibly check a list of 'things to spot' like this, then try "search for a feature" with something from the list. It will tell you where on the moon it is, and also show some images.
This printable PDF seems to set up the basics of naked moon watching nicely.
Or maybe this way;
Digital Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Moon
List by Feature Name

Or a Basic interactive moon map (mouse over for labels and scale)
This (PDF) is really neat for practicing and learning the basic features of the moon!

But you may want something more like this; early drawings of the moon, from 'the Galileo project'
Ignoring the occasional pre-telescopic appearance of exceptionally large sunspots, the Moon is the only heavenly body which shows features to the naked eye--the Man in the Moon. These features are permanent, and it was therefore obvious that the Moon always keeps its same face turned to us (although there are minor perturbations that were not noticed until later). In the philosophy of Aristotle (384-322 BCE), these features presented somewhat of a problem. The heavens, starting at the Moon, were the realm of perfection, the sublunary region was the realm of change and corruption, and any resemblance between these regions was strictly ruled out. Aristotle himself suggested that the Moon partook perhaps of some contamination from the realm of corruption.
(Thomas Harriot's Moon Drawings), and some info on early Moon engravings.

Fly around a crater
Wiki on naked lunar viewing
Moon Missions timeline
This paper seems to be really interesting;
The aim of the present paper is to give a brief account of the history of lunar mapping in the pre-telescopic era, and that immediately following the discovery of the telescope. It is pointed out that the first (and also last) extant map of the Moon based on naked-eye observations was prepared some time before 1603 by William Gilbert - discoverer of the terrestrial magnetism - though it was published only posthumously in 1651.
But Most importantly Apollo 12 art caper: Does the moon harbor a tiny museum?
posted by infinite intimation at 11:55 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

A thousand thanks.
posted by pracowity at 2:01 AM on June 24, 2010

Wiki on naked lunar viewing

My kind of astronomy.

This post just needs a poem. How about this?
The Ex-Queen Among the Astronomers

They serve revolving saucer eyes,
dishes of stars; they wait upon
huge lenses hung aloft to frame
the slow procession of the skies.

They calculate, adjust, record,
watch transits, measure distances.
They carry pocket telescopes
to spy through when they walk abroad.

Spectra possess their eyes; they face
upwards, alert for meteorites,
cherishing little glassy worlds:
receptacles for outer space.

But she, exile, expelled, ex-queen,
swishes among the men of science
waiting for cloudy skies, for nights
when constellations can't be seen.

She wears the rings he let her keep;
she walks as she was taught to walk
for his approval, years ago.
His bitter features taunt her sleep.

And so when these have laid aside
their telescopes, when lids are closed
between machine and sky, she seeks
terrestrial bodies to bestride.

She plucks this one or that among
the astronomers, and is become
his canopy, his occultation;
she sucks at earlobe, penis, tongue

mouthing the tubes of flesh; her hair
crackles, her eyes are comet-sparks.
She brings the distant briefly close
above his dreamy abstract stare.
posted by pracowity at 4:12 AM on June 24, 2010

Can someone tell me if there's a telescope shot with enough resolution to show one of the rovers up there, or some evidence of the landings?
posted by joecacti at 1:17 PM on June 24, 2010

joecacti, this is what I found on this question (can any imaging techniques yet see evidence of Human presence on the moon?) it seems;
This question comes up frequently. It's clearly impossible for an optical telescope on the Earth to resolve any of the Apollo hardware on the Moon, since the best systems, using adaptive optics in the near-infrared, can resolve details of maybe 0.02 arcsec. A lunar lander of width 5 meters, at a distance of 382,000 km, subtends an angle of 0.003 arcsec. The Hubble Space Telescope isn't appreciably closer the Moon, and its best resolution is about 0.03 arcsec in the near-UV. Not good enough.
with this update in 2002;
An infrared image taken by one of the the European Very Large Telescopes in Chile, which has 8.2-meter mirror, shows some of the finest detail observed from the Earth. At the ESO Press Release page , you can see images with an angular resolution of about 0.07 arcsec; they show details as small as 130 meters across. Still a lot larger than the lunar lander....
But in of July 2009,
In an article on , written by Leonard David, 27 April 2001, there is a picture taken by the Clementine lunar probe which shows evidence for the Apollo 15 landing site. The evidence was noticed by Misha Kreslavsky, of the Department of Geological Sciences at Brown University, and Yuri Shkuratov of the Kharkov Astronomical Observatory in the Ukraine.
So no, seems like they are really too small to see (clearly) from Earth with our best optics currently available.
posted by infinite intimation at 12:00 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

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