What If There Was No Moon?

Twilight New MoonTwilight New Moon via Flickr

This past Tuesday was the New Moon which looks like no Moon to the unaided eye. This is the first lunar phase when the Moon and Sun have the same ecliptic longitude and the lunar disk is not visible. Actually, this phase is really a very thin first visible crescent of the Moon after conjunction with the Sun. That thin waxing crescent is briefly and faintly visible as the Moon gets lower in the westerly sky after sunset.

An article on Discover magazine’s website asks “What if the Moon disappeared tomorrow?” Before reading it, I would have guessed the effects on Earth would be dramatic, but that’s not exactly the case.

The effects would have been more dramatic three billion years ago when the moon was closer to Earth, but now the Moon is “far enough away that most of the things it does for us are very long term, like stabilizing our orbit over hundreds of thousands of years.”

Most of us wouldn’t notice the Moon was missing that first day. Tides would be reduced, but not completely absent because the Moon and the Sun both have an effect on tides.

At night, animals might be more affected by the absent Moon than people. We would miss seeing it and it would be darker all month – but no darker than it was last Tuesday.

Earth’s motion about its axis would be affected but since it increases the length of a day by about two milliseconds every century, I doubt that anyone will be upset.

Back those billions of years, the Earth had 4-hour rotations. But the Moon gradually slowed us down to 24-hour days. Thank you, Moon. I already feel like 24 hours isn’t enough.

Without the Moon, Earth’s tilt wouldn’t be as steady and so probably the most dramatic effect would be on our seasons and climate.

Don’t worry. The Moon isn’t going away.  Look up tonight at the waxing crescent.

December’s Full Moon rises on the night of Wednesday, December 11 and since for most of us in the north it brings in the winter season, it is often called the boringly obvious Full Cold Moon.

 

International Observe the Moon Night

Tonight – October 5 – is the 10th annual International Observe the Moon Night. One day each year, everyone on Earth is invited to observe and learn about the Moon together, and to celebrate the cultural and personal connections we all have with our nearest celestial neighbor.

This year is particularly special as it marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. NASA is also looking forward to their Artemis program, which will send the first woman and the next man to the Moon.

An important part of observing the Moon is to see how it changes over time. Readers of this blog know I pay a lot of attention to the Moon and its phases.  NASA even offers a Moon journal that you can watch the shape of the Moon changing over the course of a month, and keep track of where and what time it rises and sets.

If you choose to celebrate International Observe the Moon Night, you can register your participation and share your experiences on social media with #ObserveTheMoon or on NASA’s Facebook page.

Black Moon Today

newish moon
There’s nothing to photograph for the New Moon, so photos often show the thinnest slice of the New Moon coming out of its Black Moon phase.

The New Moon, also known as a Black Moon, travels across the sky with the Sun today in the Western Hemisphere. It happens here on July 31 and on August 1 in other time zones.

For folks in Paradelle, this is the second of two July 2019 New Moons. Far east of here, it is the first of two for August.

Because you can’t see a Black Moon, you shouldn’t forget that it is there. It still has gravitational influence combined with the Sun that affects our mostly-water planet. If you live on a coastline or follow the tides, it matters more than to most of us.

That influence will be even greater now because this is a supermoon – a New Moon happening in close conjunction with the lunar perigee when our satellite is at its closest point to Earth in its monthly orbit.

Feel the pull?

new or black moon

50 Years of Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories

This month had lots of tributes to the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the Moon. It also saw the re-emergence of some of the Moon landing conspiracies that the whole thing was faked –  an elaborate hoax.

It would have been one helluva hoax. It would have involved thousands of people who have miraculous all stuck to their non-disclosure agreements and kept the secret. That alone is enough reason for me to believe it could never have been a hoax.

Of course, there were good reasons to believe that the pressure was on for NASA to get a man on the Moon.  President Kennedy on May 25,1961 had said to Congress

” I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

The decade was running out in 1969, so if NASA wanted to stay with that target it had to get a man on the Moon that year. Some people apparent;y thought we weren’t ready to do it for real, so we would have to fake it. There was also the perceived “space race” we were in with Russia to get there first.

One article that caught my attention this past week was titled “How Stanley Kubrick Staged the Moon Landing.” Despite that title, the article is more about debunking the conspiracy theorists who believed that the Moon landing was a hoax and other theories about that July 20, 1969 event at 3:17 P.M. E.S.T. that was so important in our history

Kubrick had directed 2001: A Space Odyssey the year before. That film was based on Arthur C. Clarke’s writing and the script, book, and film did predict manmade satellites, GPS, maybe even smartphones and tablets, along with a space station.

Apollo 11 training
Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong in NASA’s training mockup of the Moon and lander module. Were the films of the missions made using sets like these?

Actually, the stories of a space hoax predate the Moon landing. There were doubters going back to the first manned launches.

But the big hoax has always been the actual Moon landing. The Knight newspaper company in July 1970 found that 30 percent of Americans believed the Moon landing had been faked. Six years later, a Gallup poll found that 28 percent of Americans believed that the Moon landing had been staged by the U.S. government, and that was pretty consistent throughout the 1970s.

Wikipedia has an article on the Moon landing conspiracy theories, but many of them had their start with Bill Kaysing who wrote We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle . This book started a “the Moon landing  is a hoax” industry in 1970s.

Kaysing got attention because he was the head of the technical presentations unit at the Rocketdyne Propulsion Field Laboratory from 1956 to 1963. when the major planning for the engine and components of the Apollo project was being done. Though Kaysing later admitted that he knew nothing about rockets, he did hold security clearances with the U.S. Air Force and the Atomic Energy Commission for his work and that sounded pretty official to many people.  These clearances are fairly common for anyone who works on government and DoD or military contracts.

Kaysing was a technical writer for Rocketdyne, but he was convinced after he left the company that the U.S. was just not capable with our current technology to put a man on the Moon.

There have been 6 successful Apollo manned missions to the Moon, and a dozen men have walked the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972. But it is that first lunar mission that is the focus of the conspiracy theories.

Kaysing’s 1976 self-published book explained his theories. He did believe that he was a whistle-blower letting the public know that there had been a cover-up.

A few of the inconsistencies he stated were easily debunked. He claimed that the American flag the astronauts planted on the moon should have been hanging down since there is no air or wind on the Moon. NASA had thought of that early on and not wanting that floppy effect had put a cross beam on the pole to hold the flag in a windy attitude. When Buzz Aldrin was twisting the pole into the surface it caused the flag to briefly move as if it was flapping in wind.

Another part of the hoax “evidence” is the multiple directions of shadows in photos and on film. Since the only source of light would be the Sun, this was said to prove that multiple movie lights had been used on a set. Actually, there were multiple sources of light during the lunar landings from the Sun, reflected from the Earth and from the lander module and from the astronauts’ space suits and helmets.

Aha, the lunar photos show no stars in the pictures! Where did they go? The moonwalks were made during the lunar morning and just like here on Earth, you don’t see stars when the Sun is out. We don’t even see them at night if we are in a brightly lit area that washes out the sky, such as at a stadium.

Kaysing even questioned how Neil Armstrong’s first steps onto the Moon were filmed if he was the only one there.  Quite simply, a camera had been mounted to the side of the lunar module.

Kaysing didn’t doubt that a rocket blasted off in July of 1969, but claimed that the astronauts had been taken off before takeoff. They were then taken to Nevada which is where the studio set was to fake the landing photography.

The Hollywood film Capricorn One was based on the hoax theories and was about a faked mission to Mars. Some scenes from the faked Mars landing scenes have turned up in Moon landing hoax conspiracy documentaries, such as the TV show Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land On The Moon and the film A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon.

America was ripe for conspiracies with the Watergate scandal and Vietnam War revelations in the news showing us that the government was doing a lot of things secretly and hiding the truth from the public.

Which brings me back to Stanley Kubrick. If you had to pick a director to shoot believable Moon landing footage, Kubrick would be a good choice. Kubrick’s astronauts in his 2001 film landing on the Moon look a lot better than the actual lunar landing footage. It would have been easy for him to stage scenes that didn’t have to look as good. From what I have read about Kubrick’s directing style, it would have been a lot harder to get him to shoot the landing without many takes and certainly impossible to get him to do a live shoot. Kubrick shot 2001 without computer graphics, so he would have to use models and actual sets and props such as the space station and a Moon surface with rocks and lunar dust. He had done the research.

I do believe that on July 20, 1969, the lunar module Eagle landed on the surface of the Moon, carrying Neil Armstrong and Edwin A. “Buzz” Aldrin.  I believe that Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the moon and Aldrin was the second human on the Moon while Michael Collins orbited above. They stayed on the Moon for 21 hours and 36 minutes.


Here is some footage that was not seen back in 1969.  I guess Kubrick had outtakes?

 

A Super Equinox Full MoonWorm

The March Full Moon is often called the Worm Moon due to the early spring appearance of worms reappearing and the robins and other birds that enjoy them.

In 2019, it occurs on March 20 for those of us in the United States, but in any location it will be less noticed for worms and more noticed for two other aspects.

It will reach fullness just ahead of the vernal/spring equinox, which is a nice coincidence. This full moon will also be the third and last last “super moon” of the year.

The rising full moon will look slightly bigger and brighter because it is near its closest approach to Earth in its monthly orbit.

Perhaps you are someone who believes there are no coincidences, and so this triple crossing of celestial events will have greater meaning.

To astronomers, it is just another full moon, though I did read that the full moon on equinox day will allow for some interesting calculations. This is something that occurs every 19 years.

If you measure the shadow cast by a perfectly vertical stick when the Sun us at its highest point (zenith) on equinox day, the angle will be your latitude.

Or you can just look up and wonder at the big, beautiful Moon of ours.

 

Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and a Crescent Moon

If you were up early this morning you would have seen a lineup in the morning sky of Venus, Saturn and Jupiter on a line with the morning crescent moon. The lineup will be around for the next few mornings, so if there is a clear sky and you are up more than an hour before sunrise, it will be easy to spot.

Look east to the sunrise and the Moon will slide its way up past the three planets.

planets
The planetary lineup – via earthsky.org

This morning the waning crescent moon was right next to Jupiter. (This is best viewed from North America.)

Saturn and Venus are east of Jupiter and the line they seem to all be on is the ecliptic, or Earth-sun plane. This is the plane on which the other planets in our solar system and the moon all orbit, so we view them as being on this line.