Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Man in the Moon


While we were on the Isle of Man (see previous post)we were looking round one of the second-hand bookshops in Peel when Karen spotted Zdenek Kopal's A New Photographic Atlas of the Moon. I bought it. I'm forever looking at the moon - and forever kicking myself for having to look up the names of its prominent features. The book immediately eclipsed all other holiday reading as I set about trying to set the record straight as best I could. It turned out to be a fantastic book. Published in 1971, it contains a brilliant selection of photographs taken on the Apollo missions and by the various landers and orbiters which had visited the moon by then.  The far side of the moon is well covered, as well as the more familiar side (it is amazing to think that the Russian probe Luna 3 photographed the far side as early as 1959, two years before Gagarin orbitted the earth).

As well as the photos, the book contains extensive chapters on the origins and geography of the moon. It's extremely readable - Kopal must have been a great university lecturer (he was head of the astronomy department at Manchester) if this is anything to go by.  Theories about the very initial formation of the moon seem to keep changing but otherwise I suspect a lot of what he says still applies. Kopal is very entertaining (well, I thought he was) when explaining how data which might seem obtuse to the layperson has been used by scientists to draw conclusions about the structure of the moon.

I took the photo above one sleepless night soon after, using a digital SLR with a telephoto lens. As for the settings, I just had it set on automatic. It insisted I needed to use the built-in flash, so I let it flash - only I put my hand over the lamp. Not very technical, I'm afraid.


Wikimedia Commons

7 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Brilliant photograph but just goes to confirm what I always thought - the moon is definitely made of cheese.

GOAT said...

Great find! I've been obsessed with the moon since boyhood, and regard it as my personal totem. Even here in highly urban Korea, the sight of the full moon climbing above the tower blocks recently was awe inspiring.

Alan Burnett said...

A great photograph of the moon. There is something quite sad about the fact that some of the best photos we have of the moon date back some 40 years. To hell with the expense - we should go back, there is an entire generation which has grown up without the wonderful thrill of manned space flight.

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments!

WG: No, it's not.

Goat: I've seen some second hand copies of it for sale on Amazon for just over 10 US dollars.

Alan: I concur. I saw an excellent documentary on Apollo 17 the other night. That was some achievement - and it highlighted what human beings can do when there are problems to fix that machines cannot and it highlighted the human ability to explore and discover which machines lack. It left me thinking "if only". If only we'd carried on with manned missions like that and made it to Mars, we'd know so much more about spaceflight now. How many robotic probe launches does it take to make up for a couple of human beings "on the spot", thinking creatively and noticing things?

Titus said...

Brilliant photograph! We've just invested in our first National Geographic telescope for the boys.

Unfortunately, they're tucked up in bed before it's really dark enough, so me and Craig sneak it out and play with it all night.

I envy your book!

GOAT said...

Forgot to mention I also have in a box of memorabilia back home the front page of the Brisbane newspaper reporting the 1969 landing: "THEY DID IT!" screams the headline. My parents saved it for me.

Rachel Fenton said...

Love the moon and never ever tire of looking at it. Dunno what all its features are called though so maybe a trip to Amazon....