Mare Humorum

8 pm; A WAXING gibbous is hanging serenely above the wood so I set up my telescope on the desk and spend an hour drawing craters, mountains and maria, sketching the basics in pencil then picking out features in pen.

It’s the first time that I’ve used my telescope since I started wearing varifocals and I’m pleased that with the rubber eyepieces folded down I can manage reasonably well. I’ve never found it easy to draw using a telescope.

As always, most of the detail is near the terminator (the line between the sunlit and shaded halves of the Moon) but on the illuminated side the rays of the craters Copernicus and Tycho are prominent. These rays cross other – therefore older – features so Copernicus, at 93 kilometres in diameter, and Tycho, 85 kilometres, are relatively younger.

In the southwest quarter, Mare Nubium and Mare Humorum are the ‘Sea of Clouds’ and the ‘Sea of Moisture’ while Palus Epidemiarum is the ‘Marsh of Diseases’. That doesn’t sound like an appealing destination so it’s not surprising that Apollo 11 headed for Mare Tranquillitatis, the Sea of Tranquility diagonally opposite in the middle of the northeast quarter of the Moon.

On 20 July 1969 Neil Armstrong, who died at the weekend, set foot there, in what Buzz Aldrin called the ‘magnificent desolation’ of the southwest corner of the Sea of Tranquility.

Curiosity

Mount Sharp, 23 August 2012, image from NASA

Curiosity has just touched down on Mars and is sending back the best pictures yet of the red planet. The colour balance in this photograph has been tweaked so that we can see the natural colour as it would appear in earthly daylight. The disant boulder, a pinhead in the middle of the square is about the same size as the Curiosity rover. So there’s lots of geology to explore.

I’m looking forward to following Curiosity’s progress on the slopes of Mount Sharp.

Of course I’d volunteer if they ever needed an artist in residence on a Mars mission but if the choice was between one spectacular manned mission and half a dozen robotic explorers I’d prefer the latter. We’ve got so much to learn about the planet and so many different landscapes to visit.

Link; NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory

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