Tuesday 2 September 2014

Thrashed on the Western Shore of Mare Nectaris

Hello everyone,

Local weather has been abysmal over the last three weeks.  Rain and heavy overcast conditions killing off any chance of scope time.  This last Sunday saw a break in this weather pattern, and I had an opportunity to visit the Moon again.

First inspection of the Moon threw up a wonderful trio combination of craters formed by Theophilus, Cyrillus & Catharina (south is to the top of the work).  The image they presented close to the terminator was most striking.  Little did I know of what lay ahead of me.  What I thought would be an ‘easy’ cruise was to turn into a marathon effort at the eyepiece.

These three large craters are very busy places.  They are riddled with younger imapacts, criss-crossed with rilles, damaged and worn with age.  The actual amount of detail only slowly became apparent as the sketch developed and the observation time increased.

All three craters are very ancient.  All three have flooded floors, with Catharina’s  (the oldest) central peak completely covered over, Cyrillus’ central peak just managing to poke through, and Theophilus’ being the least flooded.  The ghostly image of the ray system radiating out from Theophilus is still visible across the plains of Mare Nectaris, and Sinus Asperitatus to the north.  These plains are heavily pock-marked with thousands of small craters

The longer the sketch when on, the more detail I saw, and the longer the process went on.  What I had anticipated as a two hour sketch went on for more than three hours.  The level of detail is astounding, and beautiful.  While I was cramping up, and my seat becoming less comfortable, I just could not stop nor reduce the amount of detail I was putting down.

Then, a little surprise popped up.  I spotted a curious looking little ‘crater’ just off the northern rim of Catharina.  The trailing shadow of the rim of this little crater looked way too long for it to be a normal crater.  The length of the shadow implied a much taller rim wall.  It just could not be a crater.  The only thing it could be was a volcano.  I always examine my Moon atlas’s after completing a piece to check names and features.  Principle of the atlas’s I use is “Virtual Moon Atlas” (VMA).  VMA confirmed my suspicion of the unusual nature of this ‘crater’ as being a volcano!  Woo-hoo!  ‘Catharina 2’ is its official designation.  Catharina 1 is to the south east of Catharina, but it is not as prominent as ‘2’, and in the sketch is lost in the noise of the surrounding small craters.

Another surprise presented itself along the terminator, with the lesser known brother to ‘The Straight Wall’ escarpment made its presence known with the brilliantly illuminated eastern facing wall of Rupes Altai.  Unlike The Straight Wall, Rupes Altai is serpentine in nature.  Rupes Altai is close to 500km long, nearly five times longer than its straight brother, and has an average height three times taller too.

This piece was an exquisite exercise for me.  The amount of detail revealed to me was fabulous.  Detail that is just not visible without extensive observation time spent on the area.  I ended up being dashed on the rocky shore line of Mare Nectaris, beaten up due to my complacency.  And now all the happier for it.

I really hope you enjoy this piece as much as I’ve enjoyed producing it!

Object:  Western Shore of Mare Nectaris: Theophilus, Cyrillus & Catharina
Telescope:  C8, 8” SCT
Gear:  8mm LVW, 250X
Date:  31st August, 2014
Location:  Sydney, Australia

Media:  Soft pastel, charcoal & white ink on black paper

My original art work and prints of them can be purchased through Gondwana Telescopes,

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