The moon in Saxony’s sciences – Part 2

In the early days of lunar observations, people were interested mainly in its progression across the nocturnal skies and its changing faces. The focus among researchers shifted to its surface after the telescope was invented in the unfolding 17th century. Old lunar maps and moon globes reproduce what scholars and enthusiasts were able to see and emulate with the resources of their epoch. Painstaking observations and highly detailed drawings testify to the passion and perseverance of their originators. The famous lunar map by the Dresden astronomer Wilhelm Gotthelf Lohrmann (1796–1840) is an example from the 19th century, but the moon has lost none of its fascination to this very day. In the 1960s, Dresden native Ursula Seliger created an extensive series of detail-rich pencil drawings which she compiled in three volumes.

Today, these drawings are stored at the Palitzsch Museum in Dresden, which was reopened in early May 2014 after extensive renovations. The facility was named after Johann George Palitzsch (1723–1788), a so-called “peasant astronomer” who, apart from working on his farm, also devoted his time to astronomy. He became famous for rediscovering Halley’s Comet. His interest in celestial phenomena was so great that in the evening of Christmas Day, 25 December 1758, he pointed his telescope toward the skies in search of the comet’s tail. For months, astronomers all over the world had been awaiting its arrival, which had been predicted by Edmond Halley (1656–1742) as early as 1705. Halley reckoned that the comet, last seen in 1682, was periodic and would show up again in about 76 years. So its discovery by Palitzsch was no mere fluke. It resulted from years of diligent study in, among other places, the archives of the “Mathematics and Physics Cabinet”, which he visited regularly. When Palitzsch passed away in 1788, he left behind a library containing 3518 books and dozens of scientific instruments that 25 years later were lost to pillage during the Battle of Dresden. In homage to Palitzsch, the International Astronomical Union named three lunar craters after him in 1935. The mission of the small museum in Dresden, which is near to his devastated farm, is to inspire children and youngsters to discover their world by observing it closely and mainly with their own eyes, just as Palitzsch did in his day.

In 2014, A. Lange & Söhne presented three debuts that have a special affinity with the moon. The GRAND LANGE 1 MOON PHASE is the first Lange watch that focuses on the earth’s companion and positions it within the hour dial. In the LANGE 1 TOURBILLON PERPETUAL CALENDAR, the moon-phase display lies within the subsidiary seconds dial. The orbital moon-phase display in the RICHARD LANGE PERPETUAL CALENDAR “Terraluna”,which consists of three solid-gold discs, is located on the caseback side and apart from the moon phase also depicts the current constellation of the earth, the sun and the moon.