Moon rising over snow-capped mountain peak.

The nearly full Moon rises over the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City on June 16, 2019. Credit: NASA/Bill Dunford

10 Things: International Observe the Moon Night

By Molly Wasser

Feature | September 30, 2019

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    On Saturday, October 5, NASA will host the 10th annual International Observe the Moon Night. One day each year, everyone on Earth is invited to observe and learn about the Moon together, and to celebrate the cultural and personal connections we all have with our nearest celestial neighbor. This year is particularly special as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing while looking forward to our Artemis program, which will send the next man and first woman to the Moon.

    One day each year, everyone on Earth is invited to observe, learn about, and celebrate the Moon together. Credit: NASA

    There are many ways to participate in International Observe the Moon Night. You can attend an event, host your own, or just look up! Here are 10 of our favorite ways to observe the Moon.

    A quarter Moon partially illuminated by sunlight
    We will have a first quarter Moon on Saturday, October 5th. This Moon phase is ideal for evening observing. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Ernie Wright

    1. Look Up

    The simplest way to observe the Moon is simply to look up. The Moon is the brightest object in our night sky, the second brightest in our daytime sky and can be seen from all around the world — from the remote and dark Atacama Desert in Chile to the brightly lit streets of Tokyo. On October 5, we have a first quarter Moon, which means that the near side of the Moon will be 50 percent illuminated. The first quarter Moon is a great phase for evening observing. Furthermore, the best lunar observing is typically along the Moon's terminator (the line between night and day) where shadows are the longest, rather than at full Moon.

    See the Moon phase on October 5 or any other day of the year!

    Smiling girl looking at the sky through binoculars
    A lunar observer at an International Observe the Moon Night event. Credit: NASA/Molly Wasser

    2. Peer Through a Telescope or Binoculars

    With some magnification help, you will be able to focus in on specific features on the Moon. In honor of this year’s 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, see if you can find Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility)! Download our Moon maps for some guided observing on Saturday.

    The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera imaged this bright young ray crater in 2018. The image covers an area about 5 miles (8.1 kilometers) across.Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

    3. Photograph the Moon

    Our Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has taken more than 20 million images of the Moon, mapping it in stunning detail. You can see featured, captioned images on LRO’s camera website, like the crater seen above. And, of course, you can take your own photos from Earth. Check out our tips on photographing the Moon!

    Animated GIF revealing gravity density in bright colors on a lunar crater
    This clip of Orientale Basin was made with data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter by our Scientific Visualization Studio. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Ernie Wright

    4. Relax on Your Couch

    Is it cloudy? Luckily, you can observe the Moon from the comfort of your own home. The Virtual Telescope Project will livestream the Moon from above the Roman skyline. Or, you can take and process your own lunar images with the MicroObservatory Robotic Telescopes. Would you prefer a movie night? There are many films that feature our nearest neighbor, or you can spend your evening with our lunar playlist on YouTube or this video gallery, learning about the Moon’s role in eclipses, looking at the Moon phases from the far side, and seeing the latest science portrayed in super high resolution.

    Image of 3D printed model of Moon crater
    Ina D is a volcanic landform on the Moon. Visual images, like the one on the left taken by LRO, present an optical illusion. The darker areas are raised and the lighter areas are depressions. Using topographic data, this 3D printed model on the right provides clarity. Credit: NASA GSFC/Jacob Richardson

    5. Touch the Topography

    Observe the Moon through touch! If you have access to a 3D printer, you can peruse our library of 3D models and lunar landscapes. This collection of Apollo resources features 3D print models of the Apollo landing sites using topographic data from LRO and the SELENE mission. On the Apollo 11 model, near the center, you can actually feel a tiny dot where astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the Lunar Descent Module.

    Colorful paint splatters on paper help aid in understanding of impact craters
    Make your own impact paintings, like this one! Credit: LPI/Andy Shaner

    6. Make and Admire Moon Art

    Enjoy artwork of the Moon and create your own! For messy fun, lunar crater paintings demonstrate how the lunar surface changes due to frequent meteorite impacts.

    In this musical data sonification of lunar knowledge and exploration, we can hear the progress made throughout the Apollo program to now as our understanding of the Moon expands. Listen to the percussion, which signals launches and the passage of time; the pitch of the string and brass instruments conveys the amount of scientific activity associated with the Moon over time. Credit: NASA Explorers: Apollo/System Sounds

    7. Listen to the Moon

    Treat your ears this International Observe the Moon Night. Our audio series, NASA Explorers: Apollo features personal stories from the Apollo era to now, including yours! You can participate by recording and sharing your own experiences of Apollo with NASA. Learn some lunar science with the second season of our Gravity Assist podcast with NASA Chief Scientist, Jim Green. Make a playlist of Moon-themed songs. For inspiration, check out this list of lunar tunes. We also recommend LRO’s official music video, The Moon and More, featuring Javier Colon, season 1 winner of NBC’s “The Voice.” Or you can watch this video featuring “Clair de Lune,” by French composer Claude Debussy, over and over.

    Image of lunar lander from above
    Moon Trek allows you to explore the Moon via your own computer. Credit: NASA/SSERVI

    8. Take a Virtual Field Trip

    Plan a lunar hike with Moon Trek. Moon Trek is an interactive Moon map made using NASA data from our lunar spacecraft. Fly anywhere you’d like on the Moon, calculate the distance or the elevation of a mountain to plan your lunar hike, or layer attributes of the lunar surface and temperature. If you have a virtual reality headset, you can experience Moon Trek in 3D.

    Color enhanced view of rugged lunar terrain from above.
    The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) aboard LRO sends laser pulses down to the surface of the Moon from the orbiting spacecraft. These pulses bounce off of the Moon and return to LRO, providing scientists with measurements of the distance from the spacecraft to the lunar surface. This image shows the slopes (inclines, or hills) found near the south pole of the Moon. The bright red to white areas have the highest slopes (25 degrees or more) while the dark blue to purple areas have the smallest slopes (5 degrees or less). The largest slopes are found in impact crater rims, which appear as brightly colored circular features throughout the image. Credit: NASA/GSFC/MIT

    9. See the Moon Through the Eyes of a Spacecraft

    Visible light is just one tool that we use to explore our universe. Our spacecraft contain many different types of instruments to analyze the Moon’s composition and environment. Review the Moon’s gravity field with data from the GRAIL spacecraft or decipher the maze of this slope map from the laser altimeter onboard LRO. This collection from LRO features images of the Moon’s temperature and topography. You can learn more about the different NASA missions to explore the Moon here.

    Animated GIF showing phases of the Moon
    The Moon phases as seen from Earth. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Ernie Wright

    10. Continue Your Observations Throughout the Year

    An important part of observing the Moon is to see how it changes over time. International Observe the Moon Night is the perfect time to start a Moon journal. See how the shape of the Moon changes over the course of a month, and keep track of where and what time it rises and sets. Observe the Moon all year long with these tools and techniques!

    However you choose to celebrate International Observe the Moon Night, we want to hear about it! Register your participation and share your experiences on social media with #ObserveTheMoon or on our Facebook page. Happy observing!