June 10, 2017

Picturing the surface of the moon in 1879.



From the book Recreations in Astronomy by H. D. Warren D. D. (1879), from the Wikipedia page "Selenography." Selenography is the study of the surface of the moon.
The idea that the Moon was not perfectly smooth can be traced as far back as approximately 450 BC, when Democritus believed that there were "lofty mountains and hollow valleys" on the Moon. However, it was not until the end of the 15th century when serious study of selenography began... The systematic mapping of the Moon officially began in 1779 when Johann Schröter started making meticulous observations and measurements of the lunar features. The first published large map of the Moon, four sheets in size, was published in 1834... All measurements were done by direct observation until March 1840, when J.W. Draper, using a five-inch reflector, produced a daguerreotype of the Moon....
Here's that daguerreotype:

33 comments:

Fernandinande said...

"The picture above—one most typically used to show Draper’s achievement—is a photograph of a daguerreotype that was by all best accounts made by Draper on the night of March 26, 1840, three days after his historic announcement of photographic success. The extensively-degraded plate shows part of a vertically “flipped” last-quarter Moon—so lunar south is near the top—which would indicate his use of a device called a heliostat to keep light from the Moon focused on the plate during a long 20-minute exposure. It’s the same size as some of Draper’s earlier unsuccessful images and uses the same circular image area, and although it was later obtained from a used bookstore in Greenwich Village the daguerreotype was most likely made by Draper himself. (See the full-size image at its source here.)

Lewis Wetzel said...

The idea that the Moon was not perfectly smooth can be traced as far back as approximately 450 BC, when Democritus believed that there were "lofty mountains and hollow valleys" on the Moon.
It is hazardous to attribute modern ideas of the natural world to the ancients. They came to their conclusions based on philosophy rather than experiment. The primary attribute of Democtritus' atoms was that they were indivisible (atoms are not indivisible). His atoms weren't made of anything else. He developed his idea of atoms to counter an argument that everything was infinitely divisible, i.e., a piece of iron cut in half was still iron, cut in half again, it was still iron, etc. So infinitely divisible versus atoms was a feature of thought and language, not the natural world as a thing apart from thought and language (as we moderns understand it). I believe Democritus thought that the characteristics of matter depended on the shape of its atoms, which is not correct.

Original Mike said...

I've observed the moon many times through a 5-inch telescope and don't recognize it at all in that image. I was puzzled until I realized that almost everything in that image is artifact.

CWJ said...

The 1879 image is fascinating for at least three reasons. First, there are very few places on the Earth much less the Moon that look like that outside of a cave; and even then the stalactites grow from the roof down rather than the floor up. And even above ground as well as below, such fantastic structures are the result of water, wind, and erosion, all of which are absent on the moon. Finally, and perhaps ironically, what the artist does get right is the uneroded nature of the crater. If this was taken from a serious book, and meant to be an honest representation, there's a history of science masters thesis lurking in that illustration. What physics/processes were thought to be at work to produce these reverse stalactites?

Bob said...

"Selena" is a lovely woman's-name. I knew a Selena once.

Yancey Ward said...

I have a sister named Selena. I am not sure where my mother got it since it wasn't a popular name in 1979 as far as I know.

Yancey Ward said...

I wonder how you define elevation on The Moon since there is no water to form a sea level? Departure from the mean radius at that latitude, or just the mean radius of entire body?

mockturtle said...

The idea that the Moon was not perfectly smooth can be traced as far back as approximately 450 BC,

Actually, just looking at it gives you a pretty good idea.

David said...

So back in the 1800s the moon had canals too.

David said...

"What physics/processes were thought to be at work to produce these reverse stalactites?"

The physics of the brain. Called imagination.

openidname said...

"I believe Democritus thought that the characteristics of matter depended on the shape of its atoms, which is not correct."

Well, it's kinda correct.

traditionalguy said...

I thought everybody knew that Moonal Warming raised the sea level wiping out the Moon. You people are so anti-science.

Lewis Wetzel said...

IIRC, the modern idea that matter is made out of atoms only goes back to the 17th century. Chemists discovered that you could break materials down to a certain point, but no further, i.e., you can break water into hydrogen and oxygen, but you can't break down oxygen or hydrogen into components. This was discovered by experimentation and observation. Whatever technique Democritus used to create the notion of atoms, it wasn't the scientific method.

sinz52 said...

As late as the 1950s, it was widely believed that the Moon was craggy with sharp mountain peaks, due to the lack of weather and erosion by water. Artists like Chesley Bonestell painted a lot of such landscapes. That's how many sci-fi movies depicted the Moon too.

What just about everybody missed was that millions of years of micrometeorite bombardment would wear away the peaks and smooth over the surface. That's what passes for "weathering" on the Moon.

So while fresh craters are still jagged, there are far more smooth hills than sharp mountain peaks on the Moon.

sinz52 said...

"I believe Democritus thought that the characteristics of matter depended on the shape of its atoms, which is not correct."

Democritus confused atoms with molecules.

But if you replace his word "atoms" with the phrase "atoms or molecules," it's more accurate. The shape of molecules does determine how compounds behave.

Guildofcannonballs said...

I'de like to create a Memento crossed with Rashoman for 2020.

I want Hardin to confound the silly boys proclaiming their scientific authority, unlike anything cinema has ever scene.

Trump nailed the name, Convfefe if accurate be my recall.

I will give ritno the honor of being the heavy.

Inga the child wanting worlds burning.

DBQ the list-maker extraordinare.

Rusty anything but crusty.

Wildswan or so wing yeah.

WAIT WAIT WAIT:

"Roadies" just mentioned Gram Parsons inspiring the dirty dirty Stones to record "Wild Horses."

Am I all content available, just the timing they fail to reckon with?

Or pay me not because of my jealously of copywriter infringements?

"Roadies" episode five season one at very close to the 9 minute mark.

mockturtle said...

The shape of molecules does determine how compounds behave.

That and the configuration of an atom's structure, e.g., electron-sharing properties.

Guildofcannonballs said...

You can learn more from convfefe and me than you'll ever know, being one being I presuppose.

And you non-beings, singular or not:

Thank you thank you thank you.

Catholics will be teaching you forever, very proudly and happily. We will never concede your worth's to fire's now will we, non-beings?

Who designed the non-beings with so many flaws? Like a great country with fatal slavery remnants remnanting, in the supposed age of AI.

Guildofcannonballs said...

For Christianity to have survived the Plague says a lot more about Christianity than any, from meager to death, effort I could save saving Christianity to my best abilities, and even then it's a toss up.

I grunt when I write things like this, a Trumpian grunt (though He the Donald inhales quickly and abruptly so as to provide that most amazing of brains, billionaire or not okay, to quickly intuit any trained reason His the Donald might have for noticing things unDonald) mitigated.

Guildofcannonballs said...

I refuse to concede that anything currently definable as human will be legitimate in 200 years, definable per Althouse types.

All our human base elong to us. Oh and belong too.

Aliens/humans/DOS --DOS being defined here as an operating system composed of Silicones and DNA along with Overlords-- with me being just a mere ultra-prescient Overlord.

200 years from this day.

Guildofcannonballs said...

Mike Mcready? Is this a billionaire again trolling just a mere broke-as-fuck song-and-dance-with-no-song-nor-dance man like me?

"Roadies" the tv show of (more than just) Imogen Poots.

All you fucs are "Jim Carrying" me because he was funny.

I ain't yo show nigga, I ain't yo entertained entertaining bitch.

Maybe Coulter was on to something by appearing on Bill Mather, err Maher.

Guildofcannonballs said...

So in essence, what you just saw you can't believe,WITH YOUR OWN DAMN EYES YOU CANNOT SEE WHAT YOU BELIEVE YOU SEE 'cause what you saw you can't believe.

Of course it's been done so much it's stupid, ergo our smartness will redo the done better, stronger, all heck like Chealsea! could do for
You, if you keep the Clinton's in more power.

The Godfather said...

There's so much about the world that we take for granted today that people had no way of knowing only a century or so ago. There was good reason to suspect that there were waterways on Mars and oceans on Venus. It was known that light traveled at a finite speed, but it was thought that it moved at that speed through the luminiferous aether, so its apparent speed at Earth depended on Earth's speed through the aether. Newtonian physics ruled. Turning the powers of an all-powerful government over to technical experts would improve everyone's life.

Guildofcannonballs said...

Hey, Ishtar, I fucked that xx-old and "we" lost more than just ...

It was the first time, Ishtar, that I worried about, never of course how evil this world is to everyone (but me 'cause o' my skills most notly) and how I ought to tell these fucks what they are doing, who they are, why their nitwiticy grates.

Guildofcannonballs said...

Ishtar is a 1987 American action-adventure-comedy film written and directed by Elaine May and produced by Warren Beatty, who co-starred with Dustin Hoffman. The story revolves around a duo of incredibly untalented American songwriters who travel to a booking in Morocco and stumble into a four-party Cold War standoff.

-https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishtar_(film)

Guildofcannonballs said...

I am excited about the eclipse, not enough to prepare mind you, but excited enough to mention it now, and so you Know I am A Serious Person.

Quaestor said...

Lewis Wetzel wrote: The primary attribute of Democritus' atoms was that they were indivisible (atoms are not indivisible). His atoms weren't made of anything else.

Too bad Democritus didn't call them quarks.

Quaestor said...

The idea that the Moon was not perfectly smooth can be traced as far back as approximately 450 BC when Democritus believed that there were "lofty mountains and hollow valleys" on the Moon.

It was in the 19th century when a few quite large telescopes and optically sound instruments were built. such as this French example, that useful lunar observation got its start. The most striking features astronomers could see were the craters. Since meteorite falls were apparently very uncommon on Earth 19th-century scientists assumed that the vast majority of lunar craters must have had seismic or volcanic origins. Having no conception of the true age of the Solar System the notion that the Moon's features could have been largely shaped by impacts seemed most unlikely. Furthermore, since the Moon lacked both air and water, the two known agents of erosion to Victorian scholars, it was also quite to be expected that the mountains and valleys of Earth's natural satellite, would be extremely rough and jagged, there being no mechanism present to wear them smooth as the peaks and vales of our world generally are. The 1879 illustration cited above is perfectly congruent with this reasoning.

Though in fact the impact nature of the lunar craters was established to the general agreement of astronomical science by the 1920s the image of an extremely rough and angular terrain due to the absence of erosive influences was current thinking right into the dawn of the Space Age. Have a look at this wonderful moonscape by Chesley Bonestell done for Colliers Magazine in the 1950s. It wasn't until the Surveyor unmanned lunar landing missions that the unexpectedly bland lunar landscape was revealed.

chickelit said...

I'm struck by outlandishly tall and narrow lunar mountains depicted in the drawing. More on that after Democritis.

What Democritus is credited with saying about matter is "According to convention there is sweet and bitter, a hot and a cold, and according to convention there is order. In truth there are atoms and a void." link. That is a hell of a lot more percipient than just a notion of indivisibility.

Lewis Wetzel wrote: I believe Democritus thought that the characteristics of matter depended on the shape of its atoms, which is not correct.

Matter is shaped by atoms and primarily by the nature of the atoms' valance orbitals. Most metals ensembles are deformable because their members' valence orbitals are either "s" in character or they are a full suite of d-oribitals having gerade symmetry. In contrast, most main group elements have p-orbital valence electrons which have 3D shapes -- i.e., they "point" in definite directions. These atoms (carbon, par excellence) structurally underpin life.

One theory of why the lunar mountains are so spiked and "Utah-like" is because people believed the moon was dry. Another theory is that early observers saw the dark blotches on the lunar surface as shadows and thought that the corresponding mountains must be tall and spiky.

I'm not all impressed by the blotchy Daguerreotype. It looks like a bad '60's acid trip -- in black and white!

Quaestor said...

Here's another Bonestell moonscape painted in 1962 when the Apollo Program was just starting to take shape.

Science postulates from what data is known. In 1962 the early history of the Solar System was just conjecture, with very little hard data to build on. Consequently, the role of micrometeoroids in planetary evolution was unanticipated.

chickelit said...

Lewis Wetzel wrote: I believe Democritus thought that the characteristics of matter depended on the shape of its atoms, which is not correct.

G.N. Lewis also thought that atoms have shape. Here's what he thought atoms looked like. We chemists still think in terms of Lewis structures, but mostly using flat, 2D projections of what Lewis taught.

chickelit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chickelit said...

While I'm on a roll linking to my own moribund blog, here's a brief take on a different sort of selenography -- better known as xerography: link