How the Moon Amazes Me

I think Catherine and I have had about two dozen conversations about the moon. She would claim it was five dozen.

They all go something like this:

Peter: Hey, look, the moon is really bright tonight, and it was really dark last week.
Catherine: Yes, that’s the way the moon is.
Peter: That’s amazing.
Catherine: Yes, it is.

Despite working every day on a project for which the moon is, perhaps more than for any other project save the moon landing, front and centre, I’m surprisingly amazed (read “dense”) when it comes to the moon.

For some reason, I managed to skip any sort of formal training in the ways of the moon. I vaguely remember some discussion of the tides in Grade 11 Geography. But none of my classrooms had those neato mobiles that cleverly illustrate the moon revolving around the earth revolving around the sun.

So I have decided that this is the year I will come to understand the moon.

First project towards this goal was the creation of the Moon Phase RSS Feed, which, because it gives me a daily whack on the side of the head about the moon, has proved invaluable (if you can’t RSS, you can look here for similar effect).

Next, I’m going to have to get all these nested revolvings understood.

Of course that leaves the wonder of the sun still hanging: Oliver and I sat on the big orange chair in the living room this morning and the sun was aligned so that it was shining right through the piano window at us. It was surprisingly warm. Yet it’s winter. Go figure.


oliver b's picture
oliver b on December 29, 2003 - 17:52 Permalink

When people talk about science literacy they often mention polls purporting to show that almost nobody knows or remembers anything about the solar system. “Polls show Harvard graduates can’t explain why it’s hotter in summer than in winter,” etc.. I’ve heard “What causes the tides?” come up on quiz shows several times, which suggests that broadcasters don’t expect a lot of people to know the answer. If you want a timely Canadian example, Margaret Atwood commits a moon blooper in Oryx and Crake: She talks about the unlit moon being up in the sky, whereas of course the moon is always lit when it is in opposition to the sun.

oliver b's picture
oliver b on December 29, 2003 - 19:30 Permalink

unlit moon being up in the NIGHT sky” I meant to write.

Ken's picture
Ken on December 29, 2003 - 21:45 Permalink

I think the same side of the moon faces the earth all the time, so the dark side of the moon is never seen from earth, is this true of the sun as well?

The dark side of the sun? Lunacy!

oliver b's picture
oliver b on December 29, 2003 - 22:21 Permalink

No. The Earth moves around the sun and spins about its own axis 365 times in the process, so that everyone on Earth would get a peak of every point on the sun, even if the sun stood still. But in fact the sun
rotates 360 degrees
on a 27 day cycle. So in effect we’re taking a walk around it monthly.

Ken's picture
Ken on December 31, 2003 - 01:04 Permalink

Intellectual types are next on the FBI warning list!