January 21, 2008

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One Volume Farside

cover scan by C.A. Wood

Our name for the half of the Moon that doesn’t face Earth – the farside – conveys a feeling of unreachable distance and strangeness. The farside has remained poorly known and little in the thoughts of either amateur or professional astronomers. Partly that is because we have had few good images of it, and the existing ones are hard to use. Now Charles Byrne has assembled images from Lunar Orbiter, some from Clementine and a small handful from Soviet and Japanese probes to create a photographic guide to the lunar farside. Those familiar with his 2005 Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Near Side of the Moon will feel at home in this companion volume. This Guide has the same advantages and drawbacks – it has a whole hemisphere of images in one convenient book, the annoying lines between Orbiter framelets have been removed, and there are interpretive captions. But the image scale varies from page to page, and it is difficult to find the pages for a feature of interest without using the names index. Few people other than professional lunar researchers probably need an atlas of the farside of the Moon, although it would spark interesting conversations when visitors spied it on a coffee table. But saying only professionals might need it ignores amateur astronomers and other dreamers who routinely buy books showing gorgeous views of features on Mars, which they will never see at the telescope. I am happy to add the new Byrne to my lunar library. But I also await a more homogeneous future atlas, perhaps compiled from Kaguya, Chang’e, and dare I hope, SMART-1 images.

Chuck Wood

Technical Details

Related Links
LPOD review of Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Near Side of the Moon.

Yesterday's LPOD: Falling Worlds

Tomorrow's LPOD: Two Lunations On One Globe


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