Only three nights left to the biggest Moon event of the year, no, not a blood Moon or a harvest Moon or a blood harvest Moon (which sounds very weird) but the one and only International Observe the Moon Night. This is your chance to get out there and notice the object that keeps our planet relatively stable and probably helped to form the conditions for our existence such as the stable axis tilt and tides and stuff. This night is very important because our Moon is slowly drifting away one centimetre a year so there will come a time when we can no longer have an International Observe the Moon Night, maybe not for a few billion years. So make the most of it, get outside and check out the Moon!
International Observe the Moon Night has been going since 2010 and is used as an opportunity to celebrate lunar science and exploration of the Moon. This year is particularly important for the human relationship with the Moon as it was 50 years ago in 1968 that humans first orbited the Moon with Apollo 8. Next year will, of course, be an even more exciting year as it’ll be the 50th anniversary of humans landing on the Moon with Apollo 11. Around the world this year there are 685 registered International Observe the Moon Events, including one in Wellington being run by the Wellington Astronomical Society at Frank Kitts Park starting at 7:30pm. Milky-Way.Kiwi will definitely be heading along and soaking up the Moon with the rest of Wellington. And there is of course Space Place open on Saturday until 11PM and with the most amazing telescope in Wellington, the Thomas Cooke telescope. Who would not want to observe the Moon in style?
Getting down to business, what should we look at on the Moon on Saturday? The Moon will be about 82% illuminated so it’s getting closer and closer to being full but that’s not until 25 October so there’s still some great views to be had along the Moon’s terminator. This is the bit between the illuminated part of the Moon and the shadow – sort of where dawn is breaking on the Moon. One of my favourite parts of the Moon is Sinus Iridium which is a huge filled in basin with a chain of large mountains running along about 2/3 of it with the rest opening out into the massive Mare Imbrium. Next is the giant Mare Insularem, home to the interesting couple of craters along the terminator called Kepler and Encke. Another really nice crater which should start becoming visible is Gassendi.
Hopefully the weather will be good on Saturday so we can all get out and have a good look at the Moon. So don’t forget to keep the evening of Saturday 20th October free for observing the Moon.