History of the Lunar Section

The BAA Lunar Section is the longest established body devoted to observation of our Moon. Formed in 1890, the same year as the BAA itself, it has for over a century and a quarter encouraged amateur observers and provided an outlet for the results of their work. For much of that period the emphasis was on cartography: professional astronomers took little interest in the Moon before the advent of the Space Age, and it was left to the diligent amateur to map the lunar surface in detail. Excellent maps of the Moon and book-length descriptions of its surface were produced by the first two Directors of the Lunar Section, Thomas Gwyn Elger and Walter Goodacre. Elger and Goodacre observed at a time when it was widely believed that the Moon was not inert and that changes could be observed on its surface. The production of reliable and detailed maps was essential if the reality of such changes was to be established beyond doubt. The culmination of this tradition came with the directorship of Hugh Percival Wilkins (1946 – 1956), who produced a highly detailed, if rather confused map 300-inches in diameter. The advent of lunar space probes, along with increased professional interest in lunar mapping in the run-up to the Apollo programme of manned lunar landings, put an end to the supremacy of the amateur cartographer. During the late 1950s and 1960s the BAA Lunar Section sought a new direction, first under professional directors such as Ewen Whitaker and Gilbert Fielder and then during the enthusiastic directorship of Patrick Moore, perhaps the best-known of British lunar observers. Whitaker and Fielder tried to encourage an approach that paid less attention to the mapping of fine lunar detail and more to the overall nature of the lunar surface, while Moore encouraged a sustained attempt to catalogue transient phenomena. Under subsequent directors the work of the Section has evolved in order to take account of changes in the technologies available to the amateur observer, as well as the availability of datasets from spacecraft.

Further reading about the BAA Lunar Section can be found below.

BAA Lunar Section Directors (plus dates of office): There have been sixteen Directors of the Lunar Section since its inception in 1890. To read more about those people. Please select Here

BAA Lunar Section Notable Past Members:  We have put together a list of notable people who have been significantly involved with the development of the Lunar Section over the years. Our list is far from complete. To read more about those people. Please select Here

To return to the Lunar Section home page. Please select Here

The British Astronomical Association supports amateur astronomers around the UK and the rest of the world. Find out more about the BAA or join us.