There is an exquisite richness in the play of light on the lunar surface. The deepest blacks and brightest whites develop as the sun withdraws or pours its light as the moon orbits around the Earth. Shadows both deep and subtle entice curiosity about their origins against a continually changing vista.
While observing some years ago, I wandered into the visually rich lunar landscape near the Hyginus rille. This area was close to the terminator near the South West region of Mare Serenitiatis. The lunar terrain had a lot of linear features and subtle shadows. These wrapped around well-defined craters like Manilius (South-West part of Mare Serenitatis) Agrippa and Godin, (East of Mare Tranquillitatis region). In my field of view, that evening was the not so clear Boscovich that looked broken and messed up toward its western wall.
On the terminator, lovely black finger-like shadows were cast onto the lunar surface. They seemed to be clawing for a grip on the daytime moon. Delicate wispy shadows lengthened on barely visible higher areas. Subtle diverse greys told a tale of, as yet undefined lunar features hiding and waiting for some other sketch. Boscovitch, an 18th-century Croatian astronomer, penned many tomes on the subject. One of his discoveries was that the moon is devoid of an atmosphere; however, the Boscovitch crater area was full of visual treats. To my eye, it appeared as a rich visual and moody panorama.
During the session, my eye wandered into Mare Serenitatis around Menealaus (not sketched). I picked out the smaller but brighter Bessel, which formed a triangle with the wonderfully named Sulpicius Gallus. In my sketch, Sulpicius is the bright circular crater on the edge of the darker grey area out to the left. What a name, not one to forget, almost as rich as the lunar surface itself.
Sulpicius Gallus was a roman general who had a working knowledge of astronomy. He is noted as predicting a lunar eclipse on the eve of the battle of Pydna in 168 BC. His men were informed, this helped them to be calm while his enemies were consumed by fear. At the time there were suggestions that the lunar eclipse was one in which the moon may have been particularly darkened by the Earth’s shadow.
Sometimes the names of features on the moon are very intriguing. Further reading brings that extra depth to the visual pleasure of observing. In fact getting to know lunar features can help in education. In that ordinary subjects can be enhanced by lunar knowledge. Mixing history with writing and the names of features on the moon is one way to challenge children to do some research. Perhaps asking children to produce an essay using data from software such as Virtual Moon Atlas. These digital programs’ interacting with curriculum subjects can help directly with the EU, UNESCO, and the OECD’s educational plan.