Feature | October 15, 2018

10 Ways to Observe the Moon for International Observe the Moon Night

International Observe the Moon Night on Oct. 20

By Molly Wasser

On Saturday, October 20, NASA will host the ninth 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.

There are a number of ways to celebrate. You can attend an event, host your own, or just look up! Here are 10 of our favorite ways to observe the Moon.

80 percent phase moon
Image 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 20, the near side of the Moon, or the side facing Earth, will be about 80 percent illuminated, rising in the early evening.

See the Moon phase on October 20 or any other day of the year!

moon and venus through binoculars
The Moon and Venus are great targets for binoculars. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Dunford

2. Peer through a telescope or binoculars

With some magnification help, you will be able to focus in on specific features on the Moon, like the Sea of Tranquility or the bright Copernicus Crater. Download our Moon maps for some guided observing on Saturday.

lunar mountains photographed up close
Image credit: NASA/GSFC/ASU

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 one of Montes Carpatus seen here. And, of course, you can take your own photos from Earth. Check out our tips on photographing the Moon!

moon map
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

4. Take a virtual field trip

Plan a lunar hike with Moontrek. Moontrek 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 Moontrek in 3D.

3d map of lunar surface
Image 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 model of the Apollo 11 landing site created by NASA scientist Jacob Richardson, is derived from LRO’s topographic data. Near the center, you can actually feel a tiny dot where astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the Lunar Descent Module.

painting of lunar impacts
Image credit: LPI/Andy Shaner

6. Make 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 consistent meteorite impacts.

animation of moon casting eclipse shadow on the earth
Image credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Ernie Wright

7. Relax on your couch

There are many movies that feature our nearest neighbor, from A Voyage to the Moon by George Melies, to Apollo 13, to the newly released First Man. You can also 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. You’ll impress all of your friends with your knowledge of supermoons.

Video credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Ernie Wright

8. Listen to the Moon

Make a playlist of Moon 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 just watch this video featuring “Clair de Lune,” by French composer Claude Debussy, over and over.

moon map with colors representing slopes on the surface
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.

animation of moon phases
Image 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!