The Book of the Moon
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Astronomers and Mapping

Some of the earliest instruments for mapping the heavens were the naked eye and a hammer chisel. In the main chamber of the Neolithic site at Knowth in County Meath, Ireland, there are several lunar carvings. The carvings show the Moon and the surface of the moon. The carvings are about 4800 years old.

These are not the earliest known portraits of the Moon. In the cave paintings at Lascaux in the Dodrogne there is a spiral of dots around a bull's head which are believed to be a lunar calander. These dots were painted 15000 years ago. Other even older instruments have been found.

In the 1970's in a cave called 'The Place of Heaven' in the Lebombo Mountains in Kwazulu, Natal, archeologists found a piece of bone. The bone was the fibula of a baboon and on it were carved 29 notches. It's precise use is no known. Spculation has it that the notches are related to the phases of the moon which occur every 29 days. The bone is 37,000 years old, possibly the oldest mathematical instrument yet discovered.

Although for many centuries lunar observations could only be made by eye, the ancient astronomers were able to make real contributions to scientific understanding. Men who worked hundreds of years before Christ are still remembered today. Xenophanes (570 - 480 BC) has a crater named after him. Hipparchus who was working in 180BC made studies of lunar eclipses which were used by Edmund Halley 1900 years later.
Map of the moon drawn by William Gilbertin
Map of the moon drawn without a telescope by William Gilbertin about 1600
This chapter describes the history of lunar astronomy. It deals with the astronomers who devoted their loves to mapping the moon, their observational equipment and their maps - works tha conmbined scientific precision with breath taking beauty. The chapter tracks the development of the telescope from Galileo's puny 1.6 inch reflector with which he drew on of the first telescope aided maps of the moon to the giant 300 ton 33 feet in diameter monster at the W.M.Keck Observatory in Hawaii that can plot objects 40 million light years away.
Galileo's drawing of the moon
Galileo's drawing of the moon made in 1609 using a 1.6 inch telescope giving 3x magnification
The chapter describes lunar observation from that early piece of bone in a cave on the continent of Africa through to China, Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the pre Christian Middle East, Renaissance Europe, into the twentieth century and the finally into space as lunar probes carry men and equipment who are trying to do exactly the same job as those early moon watchers in the caves at Lascaux.
Lunar map by Tobias Mayer
Lunar map by Tobias Mayer published in 1775 - a milestone in lunar mapping
The chapter finishes with a history of moon mapping, and the lives of the astronomers. It covers the work of Heriot and Galileo; the beautiful and complex maps of the 17th and 18th centuries and in modern times the stunning Clementine Atlas of the Moon, (the moon mapped using photographs taken from the deep space probe Clementine) and the magisterial and very rare Consolidated Atlas of the Moon, described as the most useful lunar map ever published.
Book Chapters
1. Astronauts, cosmonauts and lunar exploration

2. Astronomers and mapping

3. Facts and figures

4. Gardening and the weather

5. Gods and myths

6. Magic, the occult, astrology, alchemy, prophecy, fortune telling, spells and superstition

7. Medicine, madness, werewolves and science

8. Miscellany. Fascinating facts about the moon in our life and culture
Click below to order your copy of The Book of the Moon. The book was released on the 7th of May 2009 in the UK and on the 23rd of June in the US:
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