February 9, 2019

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Massive Map of Little Impact

Originally published December 1, 2009 LPOD-Dec1-09.jpg
map from Fauth's Mond Atlas, and image by Wes Higgins

One of the hardest working and least appreciated lunar mappers was Phillip Fauth (1867-1941). In his early days he inaugurated what he called a modern selenology, which focused on measurements and analysis of crater diameters, depths and slopes. He started a quantitative approach to lunar morphology studies which - after about 60 years of inattention - finally caught on in the post-Apollo period. There are three reasons that Fauth was ignored. First, as shown in his 1907 book The Moon in Modern Astronomy, he was boastful and nationalistic. Second, he became intimately associated with the crank, Hörbiger, who believed that the Moon and other worlds were covered in ice. But this full size copy of a small piece of his monumental 25 sheet map shows a more powerful reason for neglect: his cartography was just too hard to interpret. Granted, no map looks good next to an image by Wes Higgins, but the pseudo contours are confusing, with ups and downs being uncertain away from craters. I feel that shading needs to be added to give a three-dimension feeling to the contours. This map is like WIlkin's 300" map of roughly the same vintage. Both concentrate on details so much that legibility and interpretability become difficult. Fauth's large map was not completed when he died and his son finished it and brought it out in a nice edition in 1964. Fauth had always railed against photography, believing that a good trained eye could see more. But by 1964 the famous Mt WIlson photographs and then spacecraft images demonstrated that visual map makers would never catch up with photos, and his map was only of historic interest.

Chuck Wood
Note: I've enjoyed researching Fauth's life online and rereading the Fauth chapter in the utterly wonderful Epic Moon by Sheehan and Dobbins!

Technical Details
Wes' image details are here.

Related Links
Rükl plate 44
Review of 1907 book.
Obituary (in French)

Yesterday's LPOD: One Tidbit in Images Full of Details

Tomorrow's LPOD: The Truth


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