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At night, I'm drawn to the moon

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My lunar passion began during the afternoon of July 20, 1969, when, as a Peace Corps volunteer, I looked up at the crescent moon in the sultry Honduran sky, heard Neil Armstrong's voice crackle over my shortwave radio, and was completely riveted by his small step onto the Sea of Tranquillity.

Upon my return to the States, I rushed out to purchase a dime-store telescope on a rickety tripod and began a love affair with the moon that continues to excite and inspire me. Since those early years I have made nearly 2,000 drawings of Earth's nearest neighbor, meticulously rendered at the eyepieces of the various telescopes that I have owned and cherished over my ensuing decades of lunar exploration.

Shunning the cameras, computers, CCDs, and other high-tech automated gizmos of many of my fellow amateur astronomers, I continue to draw - in the tradition of Galileo and other early moonwatchers - black-and-white pencil and India ink images of the moon. Drawings, which require the concentrated interplay of hand and eye, provide me an intimate relationship with the moon that would be lost with more advanced technologies.

My sole concession to modernity is the motor drive on my five-inch refracting telescope. The motor counteracts the Earth's rotation and keeps the moon centered in my eyepiece. Because it is not necessary to have dark-adapted vision when looking at the moon, I am able to make my telescope drawings on a clipboard with the comfort of a standard white-light lamp by my side.

During my public lectures about the moon to civic groups and schools, my audience frequently asks, "But isn't the moon a changeless world? What's there to draw?" Clearly, I am not drawing real, intrinsic changes. Rather, I record the endless dance of light across the moon's geological formations. This dance occurs each night, as it has for billions of years. Light's inexorable movement over deep valleys, imposing mountain chains, somber craters, and venerable lava flows presents a never-ending visual feast to observers.


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