How To See The Moon: Best Telescope Viewing Tips

Here is an ultimate guide to viewing the Moon. Perfect for beginners or people who are thinking about starting Moongazing. Tips and tricks for telescopes. So, if you are going to view the Moon, planets, or stars, this is the only information you will ever need. Let’s start.

How To Start Viewing The Moon

Anyone who got a telescope over the holidays or at Birthdays may be yearning to try it out. The most common first target for any telescope is our closest satellite in space, the Moon.

The Moon.

Secrets to Moongazing Revealed

Here are the best tips to make your first telescopic rendezvous with the Moon more enjoyable.

But before we are looking at the Moon with your new telescope, take a good look at it with your bare eyes.

Our Moon’s most noticeable thing is that it is big enough to show some details without any help from an optical aid. 

And, as the Moon travels in orbit around our Earth, the sun’s light hits it from different angles, sometimes illuminating only a thin crescent from behind.

So, at other times shining full-on, making it a full moon. See below for different names for Full-Moon. And these are called the Moon’s phases.

You can likewise see a remarkable amount of detail on the Moon with your bare eyes. The Most obvious are the shades of gray. And the large bright areas are often on the southern half, and the darker gray areas are frequently on the northern half of the lunar surface.

Full Moon

Below is a when full moons will occur in 2020, according to NASA.

Full Moons Names.
Credit: Colleen Quinnell, The Old Farmer's Almanac
Full Moons Names.
Credit: Colleen Quinnell, The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Dates Full-Moon Names Time

Jan. 10 Wolf Moon 2:21 p.m. 

The howling of wolves was quite frequently heard at this time of year. It was traditionally thought that wolves howled due to hunger. But these days we now know that wolves use howls to mark their territory, locate pack members, and gather for hunting.

Feb. 9 Snow Moon 2:33 a.m.

The name is due to that February is typically a time of heavy snowfall.

Mar. 9 Worm Moon 1:48 p.m.  

This name traditionally believed to be named after the earthworms of warming spring soil. And this Moon name really refers to a different sort of “worm” grubs which appear from thawing trees and other winter hideouts.

Apr. 7 Pink Moon 10:35 p.m.

And this full Moon announced the appearance of the “moss pink,” or wild ground phlox, one of the first spring wildflowers.

May 7 Flower Moon 6:45 a.m.

This full Moon name is due to flowers spring forth in abundance during this month.

Jun. 5 Strawberry Moon 3:12 p.m. 

This full Moon name is because, in Colonial America, this was a time to collect ripening strawberries.

Jul. 5 Buck Moon 12:44 a.m.

This name due to, at this time, a buck’s antlers are in complete growth mode.

Aug. 3 Sturgeon Moon 11:59 a.m.

And this full Moon name is due to the sturgeon of the Lake Champlain and the Great Lakes were most readily caught during this time.

Sep. 2 Corn Moon 1:22 a.m.  

And this full Moon name is due to this full Moon corresponds with the time of harvesting corn.

Oct. 1 Harvest Moon 5:05 p.m.

This name is always the full Moon that occurs closest to the September equinox. If the full Harvest Moon occurs in October, the September full Moon is called the Corn Moon. Likewise, Hunter’s Moon always follows the Harvest Moon, meaning that it may also happen in November.

Oct. 31 Blue Moon 9:49 a.m.

October is the month when the leaves are falling, and the game is fattened up for winter. And now is the time for hunting and laying in a store of preparations for the long months ahead.

Nov. 30 Beaver Moon 4:30 a.m.

This full Moon name is because this was the time when beavers finished preparations for winter and retreated into their lodges.

Dec. 29 Cold Moon 10:28 p.m.            

Its name is due to this is the month when the winter cold fastens its grip and the nights become dark and long.

Using Your Telescope

With your binoculars, you start to resolve more detail on the lunar surface like plains, mountains, valleys, and particularly craters. But with also the smallest telescope, a whole new world emerges before your eyes, ready to explore new features and mysteries.

It Helps to Have a Good Moon-Map

So, the most helpful Map is the “Sky & Telescope Field Map of the Moon.” It is available in both regular and mirror-reversed versions. 

And the latter is essential for observers with Cassegrain and refractors telescopes, which change the Moon’s image left to right. This Map is large enough to show fine detail but is folded in four to make it easy to use at your telescope. Furthermore, it is laminated with plastic to shield it from dew.

When is The Best Time to Observe The Moon?

So, many people think it’s around full Moon, but in fact, this is one of the worst times. 

Because, at full Moon, the bright sunlight is hitting the lunar surface from straight overhead. So it looks like the desert at high noon!

The best times for moon-gazing are really in the two quarters. That is the times when the Moon is a quarter way around its orbit, And at that time, the sun is hitting it from right or left.

Focus on The Moon’s Terminator

You should concentrate on your observing near the Moon’s terminator. That is the boundary between dark and light. 

So, the sun is rising around this line, and the shadows are now at their maximum length. And if you watch for a few minutes, you can see the shadows change as the sun rises.

The Bright Looking Moon

Many beginners are very surprised at how bright the Moon looks in a telescope. It is indeed only as bright as an asphalt highway on a very sunny day. But it looks much brighter because we are usually observing the Moon on a dark sky from a dark location. 

So, if the brightness troubles you, try watching before the sky is completely dark, or else use some lights at your observing location.

And as the Moon is getting closer to full-Moon, the terminator also moves closer to the edge of the Moon, so it gets harder to see detail. As noted above, the full Moon is a washout with a telescope, though perfect for passionate and romantic evenings.

A few nights after full-Moon, the Moon starts to get exciting in the telescope again, but at this point, a lot of people lose the Moon. And that’s because the Moon, in its orbit around the Earth, rises about fifty minutes later each night. And by the third quarter, on Feb. 14, the Moon rises around midnight and is high in the southern sky at dawn.

If lingering up late to observe the Moon doesn’t jibe with you, try watching the Moon first thing in the morning instead. And once again, observing in a blue sky helps eliminate the glare.

How to Managing Magnification When Moon-Watching

So, what is the best magnification to use when observing the Moon? Try all of them; they’re all excellent.

Low magnification of about 50x will show you the whole Moon, and it will give you the big picture. But to be able to see the Moon at its best, then try a high magnification, at least 150x. 

The Moon can permit high magnification better than any other object in the sky. And this has the added benefit of reducing the glare from the Moon.

So, the single time high magnification can’t be used is as the Moon is setting or rising. When it is close to the horizon, the Moon is so blurry that it looks deep in boiling water.

Try crater-hopping your way up or down the terminator with a good map of the Moon in hand. And see how many craters you can identify, noting the variety of their sizes and shapes, their walls, and what they have on their floors. 

What Topographic Moon Features Can You See? 

You can look for mountains, both mountain ranges, and isolated peaks. A lot of those got their names from their counterparts on Earth.

Apollo Landing Sites on The Moon

So, there are things on the lunar surface that you will never, or almost never see on here on Earth. 

You will find rilles. It is systems of grooves in the lunar surface, believed to be the remnants of collapsed lava tubes. There are also domes, gentle swellings in the relatively flat surfaces of lunar “seas” and even, flat-floored craters.

So go ahead and look for the landing sites of the Apollo astronauts. You won’t see any of the items they left behind. This is only because they are too small to see from this distance, but you can often identify nearby geographic features.

And like any typical tourist, try to take some great pictures. And that is because the Moon is lit-up by full sunlight. So, it is quite easy to photograph with short exposures holding your camera to the telescope’s eyepiece.

How to Best Observe The Moon with a Telescope

What makes the Moon such a unique object is that it doesn’t matter whether you live in a rural area or the middle of a brightly lit city. 

It can always be observed, and the Moon still looks spectacular, whether you’re using a telescope or binoculars. It never looks exactly the same no matter how often you view the Moon and can be observed even on hazy or somewhat cloud-covered nights.

Therefore, you really can’t get anyplace here on Earth without using a map, and similarly, you can’t identify much on the lunar surface without a map either. So that’s the best place to start. (Best Telescopes – 2020).

Choose The Best Moon-Map

So, with a Moon-map and maybe a photograph of the Moon as a guide, you can efficiently study the Moon and recognize a number of its most prominent features. 

And in most circumstances, a Moon-map will be oriented to present the Moon as it would appear to your eyes through binoculars or your unaided eye with its north side up. 

But be aware that many astronomical telescopes give an inverted upside-down view, and some give a reversed mirror-image look. And some telescopes do both.

Furthermore, if your telescope turns the Moon upside-down while your Moon-map displays the moon right-side-up, then turn the Moon-map upside down. 

But, you’ll get a reversed view if you’re utilizing a telescope where the eyepiece goes into a right-angle attachment, it is called a star diagonal. 

So then, in such a situation, you’ll have to intellectually flip the Moon in your eyepiece right-for-left to meet the Moon on paper.

One of the most useful Moon-maps is the “Sky & Telescope Field Map of the Moon,” and it is available in both normal and mirror-reversed versions. 

But the latter is mainly for observers with refractors and Cassegrain telescopes, which reverse the Moon’s image left to right. And this Moon-Map is on a large-enough scale to show minute details, and it is also folded in four to make it much easier to use at the telescope. Furthermore, it is laminated with plastic to shield it from dew.

The View of The Moon Through The Best Telescope

The mountains and craters on the lunar surface are much easier to see through a small telescope

And the general rule of thumb concerning magnification is fifty power for each inch of aperture of your objective lens. 

For example, if you are using a 2.4-inch refracting telescope, the maximum magnification you should apply is 120 power. And if you have a four-inch reflecting telescope, then the maximum magnification is 200 power. 

Hey, wait a minute, you might say, my new telescope came with an eyepiece that promises 350 power. Why can’t I use that? Well, you can, except you’ll probably be frustrated. 

So, besides the fact that the least little movement of your telescope tube will be magnified and cause a big case of the shakes if you look at the Moon with such an eyepiece, you’ll likely exceed the limits of it your telescope’s mirror or objective lens. 

And like a photographer can only enlarge a photograph to a certain level before the image gets fuzzy and grainy, utilizing high magnification results typically in a much dimmer image that will seem to rapidly scintillate and quiver. 

So, just remember that you are now looking into space through the window of our atmosphere, and higher powers will only emphasize its turbulence nearly always present at its very high levels.

And because those turbulent atmospheric conditions only rarely allow you to use your maximum magnification, I would recommend using magnifications at one-half of maximum. 

So, therefore, if you have a 2.4-inch telescope, use 60 power and for a 4-inch telescope, try 100 power. Overall, you’ll likely get the most pleasant views.

Binoculars Are a Very Good Beginning

So, before purchasing a telescope, get familiarized with the night sky first with binoculars. 

Beginners to astronomy might, in the beginning, consider this a come-down, but are then surprised the very first time they look at sky objects with a pair of binoculars. 

They can reveal so many sights that most people think to require a telescope. Also including the crescent phase of planet Venus, the four Galilean satellites of Jupiter, asteroids, comets, double stars, nebulae, star clusters, galaxies, and, of course, the craters, plains and mountains on the lunar surface. 

The Moon presents at least as much detail in binoculars as the famous Galileo saw with his homemade telescopes.  

And for astronomical activity, your new binoculars should have objective lenses with a diameter of 50 mm. So, the usual power of this type of glass is 7, and they are labeled as 7 x 50s. 

So, through binoculars, you can see that the Moon’s surface has mountains, plains, and even craters. The maria pronounced MAH-re-ah; the plural of mare, which forms the dark patches, were once thought to be big oceans and seas. 

Mare Serenitatis, or “Sea of Serenity” and Sinus Iridum or “Bay of Rainbows.” 

And in 1651, the famous Italian astronomer Giambattista Riccioli gave them poetic names like Mare Serenitatis, or “Sea of Serenity” and Sinus Iridum or “Bay of Rainbows.” 

And Those names are still used, although we now know that those dark areas are only flat plains of lava and that there is little or nearly no water on the Moon. 

So, take your own time and spend a few nights outside, identifying different lunar landmarks. As Leslie Peltier soon learned, they will quickly become as familiar to you as the Earth’s geography.

Share Your Moon!

Finally, here is a suggestion: Take your telescope to a bustling street in your hometown, point it toward the Moon, and people will surely gather for a look at our nearest neighbor in space. 

You’ll get a big kick hearing all the “ahs” and “oohs” or outcries of “Wow!” just one peek through the eyepiece will get.  

How Much Does a telescope cost, what is the price? 

Well, check out the prices and some reviews here: Best Telescopes – 2020, Guide and Reviews.

Well, that’s it, thank you for reading this article. If you want to know more about the Moon, then head over to this interesting article about the Famous Tycho Crater

Do you want some more fascinating facts about our only satellite, then head over to this thought-provoking article: Moon Facts – Interesting & Strange Facts About The Moon.

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