Tag: Astronomy

Eugene Shoemaker and the Moon as final resting place

shoemaker_198x198Many people dream about making a journey into space sometime, or setting foot on a celestial body. And despite the fascinating images and movie footages we are able to enjoy here on Earth, the wish remains to experience this sight for ourselves. The German scientist and astronaut Ulrich Walter, recently related that the view onto the Earth in weightlessness and the realization not to be the centre, would change the individual thinking in a profound way. »Up there« in space, he was always happy. [read more]

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The »golden handle« of the Moon

golden-handle_198x198When the sunlight appears on the Moon’s surface in a flat angle, interesting lighting effects are created, due to the mountains and valleys, which can be observed quite well from the Earth. A well-known effect is the so called »golden handle«. This is when the Jura Mountains (»Montes Jura«) are illuminated 4 to 5 days before the full moon and appear as a bright arc, in front of the still darkened Sea of Showers (»Sinus Iridum«) of the Mare Imbrium. This is reinforced by the fact that the boundary of light and shadow, which is called »terminator«, runs directly through this area. [read more]

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Lunar lava tubes

lava-cave-moon_198x198When inviscid lava flows out of the volcano, it is possible that cavities are created inside the conduits, due to the different speeds of flow and temperatures. It is like a roof being formed above the flow of lava, which continues to flow inside. After cooling of the rocks, tubular cavities remain.

This phenomenon exists on Earth when volcanoes erupt, and scientists assume that those tubes and cavities could also be  prevalent on the Moon, dating from a time when vulcanoes were still active there. The lesser gravity benefited the formation of the tubes and might have also contributed to the fact that there could be kilometer-sized cavities underneath the Moon’s surface.   [read more]

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When do you call a full moon »blue moon«?

Everyone knows that about once a month is full moon … but, strangely enough, full moon is always on a different day each month and always at a different time. The reason is that the moon month is shorter on the average, than the calendar month. Without being to mathematical, one can say that a moon cycle lasts approx. 29.5 days. This is how the time of full moon spreads irregularly throughout the calender months and it happens (about every 2.5 years) that two full moon dates fall onto the same month, one at the beginning and one at the end of the month. This second full moon is called »blue moon« today. [read more]

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»Rupes Recta« – a line on the Moon

rupes-recta_198x198»Rupes Recta« is the name for a long line, which is visible on the Moon’s surface. The name derives from Latin and means »straight fault«, but due to its prominent shape, it is also called »Sword of the Moon«.

Rupes Recta is located at the edge of the lunar mare Mare Nubium and is one of the best known escarpments of the Moon. It is more than 60 miles long, with a width of 1–2 miles and a height of around 800 feet. [read more]

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The Moon and Mark Twain

mark-twain_198x198There is a famous quote by the American writer Mark Twain (1835–1910), taken from his satirical travel guide »A Tramp Abroad«, published in 1880: »Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.« He alludes to the astronomical fact that the Moon only turns one side towards the Earth, due to its synchronous rotation. The reverse side of the Moon remains hidden to us when observed from Earth. [read more]

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The lunar probe LADEE – the sequel

ladee2_198x198As reported back in September 2013, NASA sent the lunar probe LADEE (short for: Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) into space, to circle and to explore the Moon. Especially, the formation of ice at the lunar poles has been of great interest. The space probe also collected measurement data of dust particles and gases that are close to the Moon’s surface. [read more]

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The Moon – smaller than a thumb …

thumb_198x198Again and again it is spoken about the Moon in the night sky, and the visible size for us here from Earth and we would like to recall some details or outline and summarize them again:

The Sun and the Moon about the same size in the sky
The full moon in the sky appears to have almost the same size as the Sun by day, because the Sun is approx. 400 times as large as the Moon, but also 400 times further away. So it balances itself out and this is how these two very different sized orbs appear to be of the same magnitude to us. [read more]

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Moon influences hunting behaviour of lions

Lions mostly hunt in the dark, as predators have more of an advantage if it is as dark as possible. Hence, the moonlight is a disturbing factor, because it makes the predators easily detectable by their prey. And when the full moon is actually in the sky, it then so happens, that the lions occasionally come away empty-handed. Thus commences a time at full moon (and shortly before), where the lions begin to starve and hence their urge to hunt increases. [read more]

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The lunar probe LADEE

The lunar probe »LADEE« (short for: Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) of the American space agency NASA, launched successfully into space, for further exploration of the Moon. A probe is an unmanned flying object, which can fly through space or circle orbs and thereby sends data to Earth via radio. [read more]

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The shooting star night of the Perseids

Who doesn’t enjoy seeing a shooting star in the night sky? It is said that a wish is granted, which is believed to come true if kept secret and not shared with anyone. And who doesn’t want our wishes to become a reality?

To put it in physical terms, a shooting star is a »meteor«, a luminous effect, which develops with the occurrence of a »meteoroid« (a more or less large lump of rock from space), which burns up in the earth’s atmosphere. Not to be mistaken, however, with a »meteorite«. A meteoroid is only called like that, if it hits the earth’s surface (and could actually cause immense damage). So, no need to be concerned: shooting stars are harmless and very beautiful to watch. [read more]

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The Moon on the run?

When looking at the Moon, how slowly it travels across the night sky, one could easily forget that we are moving with a staggering speed through space with our Earth and our Moon. Furthermore, there is the rotation of the orbs to each other, which remains hidden from our senses as well. Only the mind knows of these astronomic connections and only for a short period of time (measured by our existence). [read more]

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Meteoroid impact on the Moon

Just recently, NASA found out, during an examination of video material, that a relatively large explosion took place on the Moon on 17th March 2013, caused by the impact of a meteoroid. This was an approximately 15 inches large and 88 pounds heavy chunk, which hit the Moon’s surface with 56,000 mph. The explosive power is equivalent to 5 tons of TNT. The flash of light which lit up during the impact in the »Mare Imbrium«, was so bright that it was visible with the naked eye from Earth. [read more]

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The Moon in astrology

Astrology, the teaching of the interpretation and meaning of star constellations for human life, shows once again the sun’s dominance in our society and the insignificant role the Moon plays. Everyone knows »his/her« sign of the zodiac, meaning the position of the Sun at the time of their birth. If you say, for example, »I am an Aquarius«, you refer to the fact that the Sun was positioned in the astrological sign Aquarius when you were born. Also, some people are still aware of the ascendant, being the sign, which was on the eastern horizon at the time of birth (lat. ascendere = to rise). But which sign the Moon is in their birth horoscope, only very few people know. [read more]

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When was the full moon in the night of New Year’s Eve?

Today is the last day of 2012 and we asked ourselves when there has been or will be a full moon in the past or the future at the turn of the year. What a fascinating picture, if you are imagining also the full moon next to the firework welcoming the New Year. The spectacle of humans meets the eternal beauty of the universe … [read more]

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Adam Elsheimer paints the Moon like no one before

More than 400 years ago, the German artist Adam Elsheimer (1578–1610) painted the picture »Flight into Egypt« (1609), where he depicted the well-known biblical scene of the escape of Joseph and Maria with the Christ Child. The special feature of this painting is, that it shows the full moon and night sky with such a richness of detail on a scale not seen before. Scientists – like for example Dr. Christian Sicka of the ›Deutsche Museum‹ Munich – have examined this work and come to the conclusion that this is possibly the first correct astronomical true to life depiction of the night sky in paintings. One can easily recognise the lunar maria on the Moon’s surface and also the Milky Way, moreover a clear graduation of brightness with the individual stars. [read more]

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Selenography – maps of the Moon

Looking at the Moon, you can recognise the spots on the surface with the naked eye, which are termed lunar maria and have always been inspiring people’s imagination. It is actually molten rock that rose to the surface during the origin of the Moon and then hardened. If looked at closer and using a telescope as an aid, you are able to make out mountains and valleys and a large amount of craters. In short: they are landscapes that give our Moon its face. [read more]

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The libration of the Moon

Who believes to see a staggering Moon at night, has probably had a drop too much, although a staggering movement of the Moon actually exists in astronomy. This is called »libration«,  but happens very slowly and is therefore only visible by the naked eye in time-lapse photography.

The Moon orbits around the Earth in a so called synchronous rotation. This means that it always faces one hemisphere towards the Earth, while the reverse side of the Moon is not visible from Earth. Due to certain physical conditions (relating to orbits, angular velocity, centres of mass, among others), what happens is that the visible surface of the Moon varies slightly during the course of the moon cycle, and there is a gentle change of inclination of the Moon’s axis or it appears to turn a little. [read more]

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Supermoon. Everything super, eh?

The Moon circles the Earth. But indeed, it is no circle, but an ellipse, which portrays itself in space like a kind of spiral, because the Earth, together with the Moon, circles the Sun. And thus, the distance between the Earth and the Moon does not remain the same, but continuously changes. The distance varies between approx. 357,000 km/222,000 mi (called perigee) to approx. 406,000 km/252,000 mi (called apogee). [read more]

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To the hairdresser at the full moon?

You always hear that certain things should be done or left undone at certain phases of the lunar cycle, also during a full moon. You can believe it or not. It surely cannot be proven and to be honest, we are quite skeptical with regards to the attribution of human activities and lunar events. However, we would not like to exclude it – after all neither the efficacy nor the inefficacy of such theses has been proven. As long as you don’t get caught in your own convictions, it is part of people’s liberty to create their lives freely. [read more]

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