Geoff Gaherty, Starry Night Education
Amman, Jordan, Sept 8, 2013 ~ Reuters/Mohammad Hamed ~ Crescent Moon & Venus
The next few nights are the best times of the month to observe the surface of the moon with telescopes, binoculars or even your naked eye. That's because the sun is rising along the center line of the moon, casting the lunar mountains and craters in high relief.
Beginners in astronomy are often surprised that the best time to study the moon is not at full moon, which will occur on next Thursday (Sept. 19). During a full moon the sun is high overhead in the center of the moon, and the surface looks like the desert at high noon.
The best time to observe the moon is when the sun is falling obliquely, casting long shadow, which is what you see during the moon's first and third quarter phases [Phases of the Moon Explained (Infographic)]
Third quarter is a bit of a problem because it occurs when the moon is in the dawn sky. First quarter, on the other hand, occurs when the moon is high in the sky at sunset, perfect for evening observing.
The moon is so close to us that you don't really need a telescope to study it. Even without any optical aid, the major features of the moon can be clearly seen, if you take the time. In fact, you can see more detail on the moon with your naked eye than you can see on any of the planets with a powerful telescope.
When you look at the first quarter moon, you are seeing a sphere lit by the sun from the right side (in the northern hemisphere; left side in the southern hemisphere). The surface of the moon varies in reflectivity, so that you see a pattern of light and dark. The lighter areas are the older mountainous regions, mostly on the southern half of the moon; the darker areas are younger lava flows, mostly in the north. ...more
From Neill's Deals: Our moon view has been exceptional this past week, with varying shapes, colors! Here is a great photograph from last month (Aug 21, 2013) in San Antonio, TX:
Credit: Kimberly LeLeax / KENS 5 viewer
Amateur photographers throughout South Texas were enamored by a gloriously big and bright full moon on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, Aug. 21, 2013. ...more