Take a step back in time and see how astronomers like Galileo studied the moon. When you gaze at the moon, you'll see the same views that enchanted and startled ancient astronomers centuries ago.
What's Up for February? The moon!
Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
During 2009, we'll be celebrating International Year of Astronomy by taking you on a tour of one of the month's best celestial objects. This month, it's the moon!
Everybody can see the moon, even in the daytime! You don't even need a telescope or binoculars to see the moon.
When you gaze at the moon, you'll see the same views that enchanted and startled ancient astronomers centuries ago.
During the full moon, you can see patterns in the dark and light geologic surface features. Some people see a rabbit on the moon, and others see a man on the moon. What do you see?
Sky-watchers have observed and pondered the moon for centuries. In the summer of 1609, English mathematician Thomas Harriott was the first to aim his simple telescope at the moon and sketch what he saw. His drawings show the lunar terminator – the line marking the division of day and night on the moon. They also show some of the dark features, including the Sea of Tranquility. Harriott went on to create lunar maps over the next few years.
But Galileo's famous observations from later in 1609 were the first to be published and publicized in 1610.
These first views and maps of the moon through telescopes revealed previously unknown jagged lunar surfaces.
Fast forward to the 20th century and beyond. More than 70 spacecraft have visited the moon so far. Twelve men walked on the lunar surface. And six of these drove lunar rovers. Plans are underway for astronauts to return to the moon.
NASA's unmanned Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, launching this year, will collect valuable information about the Moon's environment that will help pave the way for those future missions.
Besides the moon, be sure to look at brilliant Venus in the Western sky at sunset. And look for Saturn in the Eastern sky a few hours later this month.
You can read more about the moon and our planetary neighborhood on NASA's International Year of Astronomy website
And you can learn all about NASA's missions at
That's all for this month.
I'm Jane Houston Jones.