July 23, 2017 @ 9:30 am – 10:30 am
Main Yurt

Bill Burton, NOVAC

Sunday, July 23 , 2017, 9:30 am in the Yurt

Exploring the Moon: a new class for the general public on observing the Moon and understanding its formation


The new Roll-Top Observatory at Turner Farm in Fairfax County, Virginia now offers a number of astronomy classes, including one on the Moon.  In this class we first use hand-held globes outdoors to understand and walk through the 3D geometry of the Sun-Earth-Moon system and the causes and timing of lunar phases.  In the classroom we examine lunar imagery and, using the geologic principles of superposition and crosscutting relationships, reconstruct the sequence of events that led to the formation of the lunar surface we see today.  Finally, we use a live video feed on one of the four telescopes in the observatory to show the students where to see, in the eyepiece of an adjacent telescope, some of the features we discussed in the classroom.  The students come away with a multi-scale appreciation of the moon, its features, and place in the solar system.

This presentation will be an outline of the class and its major elements and will hopefully prompt a discussion on ways to improve the class and courses on astronomy for the general public overall.


Bill Burton has been a geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey for 34 years, specializing in the evolution of the Appalachians, and also (wearing another hat) helping to monitor active volcanoes around the world via remote sensing.  He got his first telescope, an Edmund 3-inch f/10 Newtonian reflector, in grade school, and has owned a number of reflectors ever since, none of them computer-guided.  Bill enjoys both lunar & planetary and deep-sky observing and, for the latter, believes that getting to that dim fuzzy via star-hopping is at least half the fun.