The Moon is the brightest and most fascinating object in the night sky. With constantly changing solar illumination and more than 11,000 craters visible in a small telescope, the Moon offers endless diversion for all who look. And yet, many professional and amateur astronomers regard the Moon only as an unshielded light that washes out the faint diffuse glow from nebulae and galaxies.
Well, tough - the Moon exists. The Moon has faithfully circled the Earth for 4.5 billion years, and records the ancient history of this part of the solar system. The Moon was the destination for the most audacious journey in human history, and will be settled by Americans, Chinese, Japanese and other humans during this century. The Moon is the past and future for Earthlings, and we all need to learn more about it.
In December 2003, as members of the firstname.lastname@example.org complimented each other on the high quality images being produced, one active member, Anthony Ayiomamitis of Greece, stated that there were so many great images that there ought to be a Lunar Picture of the Day. This suggestion immediately attracted favorable response. Charles Wood, a former NASA scientist who had studied the Moon and writes a monthly lunar column for Sky & Telescope, proposed starting the LPOD as an adjunct to his NASA-funded web site www.observingthesky.org. Within days Wood and Ayiomamitis were designing the layout for LPOD, programming the web site, selecting images for the first week’s features, and writing captions. And acquiring the www.lpod.org URL! LPOD started Jan 1, 2004!
LPOD is based on the very successful Astronomy Picture of the Day, which contains a wonderful picture and brief caption each day with links for further information. APOD is viewed by millions of people around the world. It has sparked a wider interest in astronomy and the new understanding that comes with the beautiful images. APOD has spawned an Earth-POD and a somewhat different Mars-POD. All of these PODs provide an easy and quick way for astronomers - both amateur and professional - and the general public to stay in touch with emerging science and be awed by the beauty of the cosmos.
LPOD has a smaller canvas than the entire universe, but it concerns the most visible and most accessible part of the extra-terrestrial universe. Some might question if there is enough material, both visual and scientific, to support a daily LPOD. We believe the answer is a resounding YES! There are hundreds of thousands to millions of spacecraft images, from Ranger and Luna to Apollo, Clementine and Lunar Prospector. Earth-based observers have drawn many thousands of sketches and maps during the nearly 400 years following Galileo and Harriot. And since the advent of lunar photography in the 1850s, uncounted photos have been acquired. Also, there are books, scientists, astronauts, telescopes and spacecraft that have been critical to our learning about the Moon - they deserve LPODs too!
Rather than being a mere collection of lunar images, LPOD strives to be an educational resource. Every image is accompanied by a description that ideally refers to visible details to offer a bite-size morsel of understanding. But we don’t forget the non-scientific impacts of the Moon on our lives. The Moon is beautiful, especially seen against a terrestrial landscape, and has inspired legions of poets, painters, lovers and science-fiction writers. All are grist for LPOD!
I thank Anthony Ayiomamitis for helping start LPOD, and Christian Legrand for translating it into French, and Pablo Lonnie Pacheco Railey for translating it into Spanish. Like the English version of LPOD both of these translations stopped, but the French version is now back in operation.
I hope you enjoy and contribute to LPOD!