Challenger Learning Center
Wilma Flintstone on the Moon
What’s this? Wilma Flintstone on the Moon? Get outta town!
No kidding, folks. While studying some clear, high contrast Moon photos one day, I stumbled onto the most delightful, and I now believe easiest, tool for orienting oneself to the Moon’s surface. Preliminary road testing suggests that it’s fun and effective for both kids and adults.
Look off to the right of center, and there straddling the lunar equator is a cluster of features which, with a pair of binoculars and a little imagination, depict the Queen of Bedrock in the prime of her celebrity.
This immortal likeness captures Mrs. Flintstone in full profile, looking upward to the left. If we look carefully, we see that Wilma is telling us something. Ever the optimist, Wilma wants us to know that the Sun is beginning to shine through the cover of a passing storm on this otherwise dreary day in Bedrock.
Directly ahead in her line of sight is the Sea of Rains (Mare Imbrium). Retreating off to the left of the Sea of Rains is the Ocean of Storms (Oceanus Procellarum). Proudly shining in the storm’s wake is the great crater Copernicus, with its spectacular pattern of ejecta rays. Named for the Polish astronomer who dared to suggest that the Sun, not the Earth, was top dog in this little solar system of ours, Copernicus reminds us that it isn’t always easy being the Sun.
Wilma’s trademark hairstyle, a symbol of her serene tranquility and effectiveness in a crisis, is in fact comprised of the Sea of Serenity (Mare Serenitatis), the Sea of Tranquility (Mare Tranquillitatis), and the Sea of Crisis (Mare Crisium). The Sea of Vapors (Mare Vaporum) adequately represents her eyes, even if it fails to capture that blithe twinkle we’ve come to know and love. Her nose is suggested, not inappropriately, by the highlands between the aforementioned Sea of Vapors and the Central Bay (Sinus Medii), which serves as the mouth. The southwestern border of the Sea of Serenity and northwestern border of the Bay of Asperity (Sinus Asperitatis) furnish her ear, while Wilma’s swan-like neckline is clearly rendered by the eastern border of the Sea of Clouds (Mare Nubium).
The back of Wilma’s head requires the greatest application of imagination, being roughly demarcated by the craters Theophilus, Cyrillus, Catharina, and Sacrobosco from north to south.
By the way, when using a moon photo or lunar map to assist you in your observations, don't assume the image is correctly oriented just because the book is right-side-up. The image you, or a camera for that matter, sees through an astronomical telescope is inverted. In other words, north becomes south and east becomes west. This doesn't seem to bother astronomers. The good news is that you can return it to normal by simply turning the image upside down. That's why binoculars are so good for observing the Moon - they're designed for terrestrial viewing, and are therefore equipped with an erecting prism which presents the image to you just as you would see it with your naked eye. But bigger, of course.
So next time a full Moon comes around, print off this page and distribute copies to your students, your kids, your Mom and Dad, and anyone else who doesn’t have the sense to walk quietly away without making eye contact with you. Or better yet, have a "Wilma Goes to the Moon" party, serve lots of cheese-based snacks (Moon, cheese, get it?) and give away a "Flintstones" DVD to the guest who can name the most lunar features using the Wilma method.
See how many other lunar features you can tie into the storyline – or come up with your own completely original storyline. If you would like to share your ideas with others, e-mail them to me at email@example.com. Yabbadabba do try this at home, kids.
Bruce Mattson is the Assistant Director and Science and Technology Specialist at the McAuliffe/Challenger Center
For more on the Moon, read this article and then check out some of the links provided there.
© 2012 Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Center for Education and Teaching Excellence
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