OBSERVING THE MOON
For as long as people liave thought about the world around them, they have looked up at the Moon and pondered its varying ways.
The Moon has often been seen as an inferior companion to the spectacular Sun or as a fickle deity ruling the night sky. Its phases heralded many important cultural and religious events. In today's urban culture, lunar folklore holds a smaller place than it once did, but some still refer to people as being "moonstruck."
The light of the Moon aided hunters and farmers from the very beginning, and nearly every culture recognized the Moon's influence on the ebb and flow of the tides. The Moon also provided human-kind with its first calendar— the word "month" even comes from the word "moon."
The Moon is the first celes-tial object most new telescope owners look at—and with good reason. No matter what size instrument you use, the sight is spellbinding. Craters, rays, and mountains all parade in testimony to the Moon's violent geological past.
To the naked eye, the Moon shows two kinds of area—one dark and the other light. Ancient astronomers believed the dark areas were oceans like those on Earth and named them using the Latin word for sea: mare, pronounced MAH-ray (plural maria, MAH-ree-uh). These terms persist, despite our knowledge that the "seas" are really smooth sheets of congealed lava that oozed from beneath the Moon's surface after meteorite impacts. The lighter areas, known as high-lands or terrae, are pieces of ancient lunar crust, battered by innumerable meteorites.