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S&T June 2012

S&T June 2012

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) graces this month's issue with spectacularly detailed images of the Moon, giving us an unprecedented view of our nearest celestial neighbor. The images alone are worth the issue - the highest resolution pictures show objects the size of a kitchen table on the Moon's surface. That means we can make out monuments to human endeavors, such as discarded descent stages from the Apollo missions and even the trails of astronaut footprints and tire tracks that remain nearly as fresh as when they were made 50 years ago.

In addition to their ornamental value, LRO images have already led to several new discoveries, as detailed by planetary scientist Jim Bell, showing us that we still have a lot to learn about the Moon we thought we knew so well. For amateurs, too, LRO images are proving useful. We've included in this issue a fold-out moon map with over 250 labels, but for the real thing, check out our moon globe.

June is also the month of the long-awaited transit of Venus.S&T's Alan MacRobert guides your observations of this last-in-a-lifetime event, including details on how you can detect Venus's atmosphere against the sun's bright sphere. And in a blast from the past, historian Eli Maor's article on the 1761 transit of Venus shows us how fortunate we are to be observing this event in the modern era. Back then, serious astronomers traveled far from hearth and home, braving war, storms, and disease along the way, to observe the transit — and then only if they were lucky enough to get a clear sky.

The June issue is chock-full of other major observing events and guides, including June 4th's partial lunar eclipse, Chuck Wood's guide to observing, and re-observing, the moon from your backyard, and tips on how to find Pluto, the most challenging of planets. To find out more, read our online Table of Contents.


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