Consolidated Lunar Atlas

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Kuiper et al.: Consolidated Lunar Atlas (1967)

(glossary entry)


The Consolidated Lunar Atlas is one of several significant Earth-based photographic atlases of the Moon compiled and published in the 1960's and 1970's. It is actually part of a larger work which began with Kuiper's Photographic Lunar Atlas (1960), sometimes referred to as the USAF Lunar Atlas (Civil Edition). The Rectified Lunar Atlas was the first supplement, and the Full Moon and low sun-angle photography of the Consolidated Lunar Atlas completed the project.

The Consolidated Lunar Atlas is essentially a remake of the Photographic Lunar Atlas with photos better than those available in 1960 and might be thought of as an effort to showcase results obtained with the LPL new NASA-funded 61-inch telescope at the Catalina Station at a time when many thought space-based photography had made such observations obsolete. Most of the plates reproduced in the CLA were taken with it, but some (especially of the Full Moon) were taken with a similar telescope operated by the U.S. Naval Observatory, as well as a few taken with the Lick and Yerkes telescopes. The smallest features resolved are said to be in the range of about 1 km on the Moon.

Additional Information

  • The text and plates from the Consolidated Lunar Atlas are available on-line at the LPI website.
  • The story of the 61-inch telescope is told in a number of LPL publications.
    • This Progress Report by Gerard Kuiper indicates that construction took 2 years, and lunar photography began on October 8, 1965, less than four months after the first star tests on June 18th. Kuiper was quite proud both of the short construction time and that good results were obtained from the start. He claims the primary mirror was the most perfect optical surface of its size in existence, although that conclusion seems to be based on its performance under the relatively insensitive Foucault knife-edge test.
    • Plates F6, B5 and G6 for the Consolidated Lunar Atlas were obtained on October 13th and Kuiper says half the plates obtained that night exhibited 0.2 arc-sec (400 m) resolution or better, as, he says, did some of the earlier plates. Plates H20 and H23 (taken October 19, 1965) are from the next night on which observations were attempted after a week of bad seeing.
  • Calibration data for each plate of the on-line images is freely available for use with LTVT. This permits interested users to automatically search through the plates and display any region of interest on the Moon's nearside at a variety of lighting angles, either as photographed, or in a rectified view.
  • The plates, at least as reproduced on-line, suffer from odd geometric distortions which place the features in positions slightly different from what would be expected. This can make position readouts (as with LTVT) inaccurate. For example, the Yerkes full disk image is squashed vertically by far more than could be explained by atmospheric refraction. - JimMosher
  • In recent years, many amateurs astronomers, using small telescopes, have obtained images surpassing in resolution the best of those in the Consolidated Lunar Atlas. Nonetheless, it remains a useful reference for its comprehensive coverage of the Moon under a variety of lighting conditions. - JimMosher
  • An odd-looking composite image of Full Moon photographs from the Consolidated Lunar Atlas is seen on page 189 of the huge coffee table book MOONFIRE; The Epic Journey of Apollo 11 (Norman Mailer).

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