June 23, 2013

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The Moon in Focus

images from Sept, 1947 Sky & Telescope (from The Complete Sky & Telescope DVD set)

Following World War 2 an interest in astronomy gradually returned. Sky & Telescope helped promote a rebirth in interest in the Moon by printing lunar photographs on the back covers of the magazine in 1946 and 1947. They divided the famous Lick Observatory first and last quarter photos into 18 sections, and the accompanying In Focus column on the inside front cover provided a small chart to identify features, and a 15-20 word description of prominent features. At the end of the series in September, 1947, S&T announced that all 18 photos and the key maps had been reprinted on 12 x 19" sheets of paper and were for sale for two dollars, postpaid. If S&T had published this collection as a thin book, including the descriptions, it would have become an immediate success and inspiration for lunar observers. At the time the only available photographic lunar atlas was Pickering's low quality one from 1903; and Goodacre's privately published 1931 The Moon was the best available map and description. In looking back at these images it is remarkable how bad some of them are! With modern technology higher quality images are being taken by LPOD contributors with 3" and 4" aperture telescopes. I could argue however, that these Lick images (and somewhat better ones from Mt Wilson) really were adequate to deduce the basic geology of the Moon for they are what Baldwin and Shoemaker used in 1949 and 1959 to establish modern lunar science.

Chuck Wood
I thank Bill Hartmann for giving me a set of these S&T lunar photos from the 1940s!

Yesterday's LPOD: Happy Anniversary

Tomorrow's LPOD: Jogger's Moon


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