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Second orbit of the moon.

Observing the Moon

Gerald North (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

408 pages. $45. ISBN-13987-0-521-87407-6


FEW BOOKS ABOUT the Moon reach a second edition, but Gerald North's Observing the Moon has persevered. It's written in a chatty, personal style often typical of British astronomy books. It's infused with the author's own experiences in lunar observing and imaging and includes step-by-step explanations of various Moon-gazing techniques.

Like the first edition (S&T: May 2001, page 75), this new version has two distinct parts. The lion's share is devoted to lunar features, including 200 pages of descriptions of 48 interesting craters and their neighborhoods. This part seems unchanged from the 2000 edition, including minor misstatements about lunar science. For example, the elusive dark bands on the inner walls of Aristarchus haven't changed over the last hundred years; they're stripes of debris from the crater's formation.

North's book is very much a guide for observers who want to learn techniques to study the Moon. The author repeats the first edition's information on selecting a telescope and eyepieces, as well as the techniques of drawing lunar features. A significant update, however, details the use of webcams and other digital-imaging devices.

The last chapter concerns transient lunar phenomena (TLPs), temporary changes seen in the color or brightness of localized areas of the Moon's surface. Most of these events appear illusory. Like the canals of Mars, their origin more likely comes from the eye and brain of the observer.

North reports that one person has made hundreds of observations of a suspected TLP site. I would instead encourage observers to work on learning to read the history of the lunar surface. With practice, the sequence of events can be diagnosed, greatly increasing the satisfaction of Moon-gazing.

Contributing editor Charles Wood writes our Exploring the Moon column (page 63).

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Title Annotation:Observing the Moon
Author:Wood, Charles A.
Publication:Sky & Telescope
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2008
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