The Bay of Rainbows

I was watching an exciting movie about space (Event Horizon) but I kept noticing actual space out of the window behind the screen; the great shining pregnant Moon riding clouds in a dark sky. I think I would have been all right in the days before telly as I can sit and look at the Moon and stars for hours, as everyone who knows me can testify with some annoyance.

I do not know why I never thought of it before but the little binoculars that Steve the Sheep gave me for bird noticing also come in handy for Moon noticing! Looking at our nearest neighbour with the naked eye is a bit disappointing as you can see a vaguely familiar pattern of dark smudges, or a face, depending how many and what grade of drugs you’ve smoked. But a zoom lens or even the smallest binoculars teleport you into a breathtaking landscape of craters and dark seas, hard-edged and glowing in brilliant sunlight against the pure blackness of space.

It is even more amazing through a decent telescope: the image that swims into focus in front of you is so clear and sharp that it is like looking at really high-quality satellite photographs. You feel that if there were people down there you’d be able to make out their license plates and newspaper headlines. It brings it home to you with a gut immediacy that you are looking down on an alien world, and it’s real.

The photo (by Eric Roel) shows a detail of the Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Rains.

To find it, look for the three roughly similar sized-blobs at the top right of the Moon’s face (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, otherwise, the bottom left) and go left to the large dark area above the bright pinpoint crater Copernicus. This is the Mare Imbrium. Now look at the patch of lighter highlands to the north - the ‘shoreline’. There is an almost perfect semicircular notch out of it. This is Sinus Iridium: the Bay of Rainbows. What an amazing name!

You can’t help looking at the Moon differently when you know there’s a Bay of Rainbows up there.

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