Can You Spot the Secret Moon Maiden? A Wonderful Scientific Map of the Moon from 1679


Map of the Moon by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625-1712), published in 1679. This moon map is famous for details added by Cassini that can be seen in close-up, such as a “Moon Maiden”. The mapping of the Moon with telescopes started with Galileo in 1610, and then developed further during the 17th century as telescopes improved.

Nearly 300 years earlier, engineer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, astronomer to Sun King Louis XIV, made lunar history in 1679, when he published the first scientific map of the moon. Needless to say, the event was not televised and Cassini never had the opportunity to walk on the surface he studied. Instead he observed it through the eyepiece of a telescope, a relatively new invention.


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A man of science, he may not have been entirely immune to the sort of moon-based whimsy that has long infected poets, songwriters, and 19th-century romantic heroines. Hiding in the lower right quadrant, near Cape Heraclides on the Sinus Iridum (aka Bay of Rainbows), is a tiny, bare-shouldered moon maid.

Or perhaps this appealingly playful vision can be attributed to Cassini’s engraver Claude Mellan. Either way, she seems exactly the sort of female life form a 17th-century human male might hope to encounter on a trip to the moon.


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Can You Spot the Secret Moon Maiden? A Wonderful Scientific Map of the Moon from 1679

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