August 20, 2014

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Out of Touch with The Natural World

How many of us know what phase the moon is, right now?

This last weekend, there was a total lunar eclipse.

Unfortunately, it was viewable from the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii, the west coast and less so, the farther East in the USA one lives.

I sent an email to my good friend who lives in Hawaii, alerting her to the event, and suggesting that she get up early on Saturday morning to observe the blood red moon in the pre-dawn sky.

She said she'd consider it.  Frankly, I doubt if she got up.

But today, on Monday, I received a photo of a "bright star" over the Fort Boreman hill from over the weekend, and immediate recognised it as possibly Venus, a planet that never travels far from the sun, as we view it from here on Earth.

It's extremely bright, and appears as the evening star, setting within the hour after the sun does.

I started looking for the cresent moon, and puzzled by it's absence, decided to consult the computer program "Stellarium" to run the planets and the stars through the evening.

I still couldn't find it.  The moon doesn't just vanish from this program, I just couldn't find it setting along with the sun as I had expected.

It wasn't until I ran the program into the midnight hour that I suddenly spotted the full moon rising in the east.

What a dolt!  A lunar eclipse requires the moon to be at full moon position by definition.  I had slipped and was looking where the solar eclipse position was...in other words, I was thinking of a new moon.

This reminds me of the lession that my first weather instructor taught us in our first class.  He asked, "Who knows what phase the moon is right now?"  No one but I could answer...and I wasn't right, but I was close.  I had seen it when I got up before light to go sign on a radio station, so I had seen it setting.

Modern man is not attuned to the moon any more.  If you don't hunt by it, it you don't harvest by it, there really isn't any more need to track it, until the dramatic solar and lunar eclipse occurs.

It's a great way to teach astronomy.  Too bad modern man doesn't need it any more.

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