There is much to be seen in even most modest sized telescopes, and the Moon makes a terrific target. It is certainly easy to locate, has a wealth of visible detail, and is frequently up!
Here are a few lunar targets for you to try this weekend. Four for Friday, June 14, and four more for Saturday June 15. We will always be viewing along the shadow-line or "Terminator" on the Moon, where contrast is best. These targets will be particularly stunning this weekend.
Start with a low power eyepiece to locate the area for your target, then increase magnification with higher power eyepieces, to what the "seeing" (steadiness and sharpness of the view) allows, and what best frames the target. There is really nothing better than a spectacular night with ultra-crisp seeing when viewing the Moon.
Having a good Map of the Moon is always handy, like Sky & Telescope's Moon Map. But if you don't have a moon map, images are provided with the targets are marked in red.
Ready to start mapping the Moon? See what you can find, then come back and tell us which ones were your favorites.
Targets for Friday June 14:
Mt. Blanc / Alpine Valley - 45N, 1E, 45N, 3E
The Montes Alpes (The Alps) is a mountain range about 250 km in length with peaks rising between 1,800 and 2,400 meters. They should be a very dramatic feature. A few degrees southeast is the Vallis Alpes (Alpine Valley) - a very distinctive feature 180 km long, with a cleft in the floor. Seeing the cleft is an accomplishment!
Alexander - 40.3N, 13.5E
This is a greatly eroded walled plain of 82 km just north of Mare Serenitatis, or "Sea of Serenity". Also in the area are the distinctive craters Eudoxus to its north, and smaller Calippus to the west. Can you see little Rima Calippus just southeast of its crater?
Julius Caesar - 9.0N, 15.4E.
This very famously-named flooded crater is 90 km in diameter. Note its wide wall and dark floor. This area is replete in rimae. Tonight see Rima Ariadaeus. We'll return to other rimea tomorrow evening.
Moretus - 70.6S, 5.5W
This area of the Moon is a jumble of craters. Moretus is a circular mountain range 114 km across, with a nice central peak.
Targets for Saturday June 15:
Archimedes - 29.7N, 4.0W
This is a very prominent flooded crater at the eastern edge of Mare Imbrium, or "Sea of Rains." Its floor sits at 2,150 meters, and the walls of the crater are 83 km across. This is an outstanding area to observe, with many notable and readily recognizable features throughout the region.
Apennine Mountains - 20N, 3W
Surely after observing Archimedes, you've noticed the tremendous mountain chain to its southeast. These are the Apennine Mountains. They form a wall along the eastern southeastern edge of Mare Imbrium, ascending steeply. The peaks rise over 5,000 meters, before gradually descending down to eastern Mare Vaporum, or "Sea of Vapors." Look for rimae between Archimedes and the Apennines!
Rima Hadley - 25N, 3E
You'll love this feature and return to it often. Hadley's Rille is a lava channel that snakes along the foot of the Apennine Mountains (Montes Apenninus) for 80 km. At the bend in the rille, at the foot of Mons Hadley Delta is the landing site of Apollo 15!
Rimae Triesnecker - 5N, 5E
The Treisnecker Rilles are simply beautiful. They crisscross just east of the crater they are named for, in a lacework of intricacy. You will never tire of these features, as they change under different lighting conditions. Fun too, to see them punctuated by craterlets!
I hope you have fun with the June Moon! Which of these lunar features was your favorite? Tell us in the comments!
Images courtesy the Lunar and Planetary Institute
From The Consolidated Lunar Atlas
Mark Wagner is a life-long astronomy enthusiast and deep sky observer. He has spent the past twenty years popularizing amateur astronomy in the San Francisco bay area through his writing and community building. A past president of the San Jose Astronomical Association, he founded what is now the annual Golden State Star Party in California. Leave your comments or questions for Mark Wagner in the comments section below, and submit your sketches or images of the targets mentioned to the Orion Image Gallery.