Thursday, November 10, 2011

Be a Moon Expert! - Part 2

You're half an expert on Moon geography already - - so let's get the rest of the Moon into your head right away.

Quick technical review: the maria are the dark splotches we see on the Moon. The maria are spread out over the whole Moon in an easy-to-remember pattern:

"Five on the East Side,
Five on the West Side,
Two in the Middle
and an Ocean out West"

Last time, we went over the East (right-hand) side of the Moon, where there are FIVE maria: the Sea of Crises in the East, then then three "ity" maria in the middle East (Serenity, Tranquility, and Fertility -- "STuF," remember?), and then the Sea of Nectar, "dripping" at the bottom of the East side of the Moon.

Let's take a look at the Moon again:

Okay, we did the East side, and we'll do the West side - - but first, let's make a note of the two maria
that aren't East or West - - they're right in the middle, see?

Let's pull the Moon out of the background to make it clearer about how these maria straddle the centerline of the Moon:

They're a snap to remember. The north mare is Mare Frigoris - - the Sea of Cold. So, North - - North Pole - Cold, get it?
The second mare is smack dead-center in the middle of the Moon. It's called Mare Vaporum, the Sea of Vapors.

Now, I will tell you the incredibly stupid way I remember the name of this sea: "when you get a head COLD, you put Vicks Vapo-Rub on your chest." I came up with this memory aid when I was 8 years old, and it's been my personal shame to remember things like that for decades. Head Cold (up north where it's cold), then Vapo-Rub on the chest - - middle of the body, middle of the Moon. Sigh. Sad, but it's worked for me since the Apollo days.

Okay - - - remember where all the maria are:

"Five on the East Side,
Five on the West Side,
Two in the Middle
and an Ocean out West"

Let's press on to the West side of the Moon, okay?

Wow, that looks like a lot of maria, doesn't it? Fortunately, most of the dark part of the West side is taken up by the only named "ocean" on the Moon (the "Ocean out West") - - the Oceanus Procellarum, or the Ocean of Storms:

The way to remember the Ocean of Storms is to once again think of a US map - - the biggest ocean the United States bumps up against is the Pacific, which is in the Western part of the US. So, West... Ocean. And since it's the only "ocean" on the Moon, just remember that the name of the only ocean is the Ocean of Storms.

The Ocean of Storms accounts for almost half the "maria-type" surface of the West side of the Moon, so that brings the remaining maria in the West down to a more manageable number. Namely, there are only five more maria to remember. Let's look at the five remaining circles on the map of the Moon:
Okay, that looks like a lot of circles - - but you already know the blue one is the Ocean of Storms, so we just have to get the names of the five orange circles and we're done! Let's clear off the Moon and work on just the shapes:

So the first mare we'll deal with is the big round one at the top of the stack: Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Showers or the Sea of Rain.
There's an easy comparison you can make in your head - - the Ocean of Storms is HUGE. Mare Imbrium isn't as big as the Ocean of Storms, so it's just a "shower," not a "storm." Got it? Showers and Storms.

Okay, so the next mare on the stack is Mare Insularum -- the Sea of Islands.

Think of a rainy island, and you can remember that the islands are surrounded by the Ocean of Storms and the Sea of Showers. Another way to remember that it's a sea of islands is that there are some honking great craters scattered across it, like Copernicus and Kepler. We'll talk about craters next time, but right now just remember that the "islands" in the Sea of Islands are big craters.

This next mare is really difficult to remember, but I've kept it in my head with one of the stupidest metanymic memory aids ever conceived.

Mare Cognitum is the "Sea That Became Known" or The Known Sea. The way I remember this mare is that I *know* the mare below the Island Sea is the Known Sea. Yes, it's meta, but it works for me because I know the Known Sea is under the Island Sea. And now you know, too.

Here we go with the final two maria. As you can see from the places you've already learned, the places on the West side of the Moon seem to be concerned with weather - - storms, showers. The final maria are also about weather: namely, clouds and moisture. The mare on the bottom right is the Sea of Clouds, Mare Nubium.

The other mare is Mare Humorum, the Sea of Moisture.
How to remember these two? Well, on the Moon, "moisture is on the outside of clouds." Easy to see as the Sea of Moisture is closer to the edge of the Moon's horizon than the Sea of Clouds. Additionally, the Sea of Moisture is the lowest mare in the West - and so it's a drippy business, just like the Sea of Nectar, the lowest mare in the East.
Yes, the memory system is all quite infantile, but it seems to stick in the head if you give it enough time. Let's take a final look at where all these maria fit on the lunar surface:

Remember? The head COLD and the VAPO-RUB in the middle of the chest? Then, there's the only big Ocean, like the Pacific on Earth, that's way out to the West and is called the Ocean of Storms. 

Next there's the remaining five maria in the West - - the top one is Showers, which is like the big Ocean of Storms except Showers aren't as big as Storms. And it Showers on the Islands in the Sea of Islands, right in the middle of the West side of the Moon. And under the Island? Well, you KNOW that the Known Sea is under the Island, right? And you also know that the West is full of Clouds and Moisture - - but Moisture is on the OUTSIDE of Clouds on the Moon. Got it? Great!

Here's a look at what you know about the Moon:

"Five on the East Side,
Five on the West Side,
Two in the Middle
and an Ocean out West"

And you can name ALL of the maria now - pretty darned impressive! Next time, we'll go over some quick tips so you'll be able to point out ALL SIX Apollo lunar landing sites like a MOON BOSS. Failure is NOT an option. More soon.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant! I love it! Will link to it.