This month marks the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. On the 16th July 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off onboard the Apollo 11 with destination the moon. Four days later, on the 20th July, Neil Armstrong uttered those famous words from the surface of the moon: ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’. Astrophysicist and author of 50 Things to See in the Sky, Sarah Barker shows how to find the Apollo 11 landing site, without a telescope.
The most accessible wonder of the night sky is our Moon. If you have some binoculars, or a small telescope, you’ll quickly notice that the Moon is full of intriguing details, but even with just the naked eye, you can see some fascinating features – including the area where the first Moon landing took place!
Dark patches on the Moon are called maria or ‘seas’ because early observers thought that’s what they were – dark oceans of water on the Moon. This is not quite right; they were formed by ancient volcanic eruptions that spewed basalt rock over the surface of our dearest natural satellite, but the name remains. One of the most famous of these maria is the Sea of Tranquility. On 20 July 1969, two astronauts from the Apollo 11 mission became the first people to walk on the surface of the Moon. Their landing site was located in the Sea of Tranquility.
- Pick a night when the Moon is full and orientate yourself by looking for one of its most prominent craters – the Tycho crater – in the lower part of the Moon (for observers in the northern hemisphere).
2. Next, look for the dark patch across from the Tycho crater that resembles a lobster claw, or perhaps rabbit ears … the main part of this is the Sea of Tranquility.
- Draw an imaginary line from the Tycho crater towards the Sea of Tranquility, and the first dark patch you reach is the site of the Apollo 11 landing – people have walked on that spot!
This is an extract from 50 Things to See in the Sky by Sarah Barker, published by Pavilion. Illustrations by Maria Nilsson.