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the marvelous moon February 21, 2008

Posted by eyegillian in explore, science, space.
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Lunar eclipse with Saturn & Regulus by Seeing Is

Thy shadow, Earth, from Pole to Central Sea,
Now steals along upon the Moon’s meek shine
In even monochrome and curving line
Of imperturbable serenity.

Thomas Hardy At A Lunar Eclipse (1903)

I was out in the cold clear winter air last night watching the eclipse. What an awe-inspiring scene! It seemed to me that when the moon was red and dark in the earth’s umbra, that it seemed more full and round and real than ever it does as the bright plate we are used to seeing. I wasn’t alone as I watched the sky — as the moon came into its full eclipse, doors opened and people rushed towards the next-door park to get a good look and a few photos. Although it was -10 degrees celcius, I saw 40 or 50 people out watching the moon, including a teacher who had set up a small telescope for a group of students to see the action close-up… and I’m sure to look at Saturn as well, a bright light to the moon’s left.

Every human culture has stared at the sky and told stories about the moon and its effect on people’s lives. From “honeymoons” to “once in a blue moon”, from legends about werewolves to Asian Moon Festivals, the moon has a strong attraction that affects more than the earth’s oceans.

I believe that telescopes wouldn’t have been invented if it wasn’t for the moon. Galileo, who unveiled his telescope in 1609, was the first person to map the craters of the moon. It’s fun to imagine how Galileo — whose telescope only had a 30x magnification — would enjoy the view from the Hubble Telescope, or the new James Webb Space Telescope, due to be launched in 2013.

Now that humans have walked on the moon — and I remember watching that first landing on a black-and-white TV at school — and mapped its surface, attention has turned to other planets in our solar system and beyond. But I don’t think that a “been there, done that” attitude should apply to the moon. Oh, I’ve been following with great interest the exploits of Rover and Spirit exploring Mars, and the Cassini-Huygens Probe’s photos of Saturn and its rings and moons, of course, but the earth’s own moon still fascinates me. The Russians are planning a series of moon expedition in a couple of years, and I will be following the new moon journey with keen interest.

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Related Links:
What is a Lunar Eclipse?
How a lunar eclipse saved Columbus

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