Grade: 7 to adult
Object: to produce a map
of the polar regions of the moon by watching stars/planets 'blink' as they graze
the lunar horizon, going behind mountains/craters and reappearing on the other
Methods: For this project, one needs a list of objects which the moon occults near its polar regions. This list is available at the IOTA web site (listed below). One also must know the exact latitude and longitude of one's observing site (to within 50 feet).
Once one has aquired the object in the telescope, he/she must keep careful track when the star blinks in and out as it passes across the lunar horizon. The easiest way of doing this is by having a tape recorder and a radio. With the radio set to the timing signal, one calls out each time the star appears and disappears. The tape thus records both the signal and your 'calls'. If a whole series of people are observing along a line, one can plot the calls and accurately plot the surface features of that area (this is what IOTA does with the tapes that are sent in). For more information or participation in this project, contact the IOTA website.
School Instruction: teachers can use this project to demonstrate how one reduces data into meaningful information (in this case, a series of points into a two dimentional map of the lunar surface). It also gives students an excellent opportunity to participate in a scientific endeavor.
PS: For a more extensive article on Lunar Occultations, please see the Occultation Article in the Article Section.