As Michigan weather would have it, whenever we have clear skies, it seems like there’s just enough moonlight to wash away the faint fuzzy objects that we’ve been longing to see. Whenever this happens, I simply turn my scope toward the very object that seems to be spoiling the party—the moon.
The only problem—as a true novice, I am totally lost. Yes, of course, I know a crater when I see one, but what crater am I looking at?
About a year ago, I picked up a nice laminate ‘moon map’ that I can have with me at the eyepiece. Seemed like the perfect solution, right? Wrong, no matter what scope I’m looking through, it’s either flipped left for right, up for down, well you get the picture. As a result, it was nearly impossible to figure which way to rotate the map in order to have the same axis orientation as the image I was seeing through the eyepiece.
“Mental gymnastics like this will keep my mind sharp” I kept telling myself, but at 10:00 at night in 20 degree temperatures, my mind is too old to keep up.
The solution: “The Virtual Moon Atlas.” I recently stopped by the Ford Club’s annual swap meet in Livonia. One of their club members, Jim Frisbie, gave a presentation on binocular observing. As part of his presentation, he demonstrated a FREE software program called the Virtual Moon Atlas. Wow! I couldn’t believe it. This is just what I needed.
Here are just a few of the particulars:
To download: I googled “Virtual Moon Atlas” and hot-linked from there (see http://www.astrosurf.com/avl/UK_index.html). It took about 45 minutes to download while I read and returned email. I believe it takes up nearly a Gig of disk space for the full version, but worth every byte.
Well, I still look forward to nice dark, moonless nights. Hey, while I’m dreaming let’s throw in 72 degrees and bug-less too. Until that happens, at least I have the moon to explore and when I do, I’m not quite as lost as I used to be.