You Won’t See the Micromoon Tonight

The Full Moon last week was called a “supermoon” because it was closer to Earth and so looked a bit larger. Tonight is the New Moon – the “invisible” Moon – and some people have given this one the name “Micromoon.” Both terms are not scientific or official and only came into being in recent times.

A Micromoon is when a Full Moon or a New Moon coincides with apogee, the point in the Moon’s orbit farthest away from Earth. I have also seen it called Minimoon or Apogee Moon. It is considered to be “micro” Full Moon or New Moon when the Moon’s center is farther than 405,000 kilometers (ca. 251,655 miles) from the center of Earth.

Will it really look different? A Full Micro Moon will look approximately 14% smaller than a Supermoon and the illuminated area appears 30% smaller, so it might look a little less bright. Of course, a Micro New Moon – like all New Moons – is not lit for us to see, so it being farther away will not have any effect on what we see – or more accurately, don’t see.

Even unseen, the New Moon still affects tides which shows the greatest difference between high and low tides around a Full Moon and a New Moon. Micromoons mean a smaller variation of about 5 cm (2 inches).

Moon lore suggests that Full Moons, New Moons, Micromoons, and Supermoons affect human mental health. It was also believed that they also could create natural disasters, such as earthquakes, because of the pull of the Moon and Sun in the way that it affects tides. No scientific evidence supports these kinds of correlations.

The Moon Hoax of 1835

Yesterday, I wrote about how our Moon is wobbling and it is affecting coastal flooding. It might have sounded like a hoax, but it is true. However, there was a big Moon hoax that started on August 25, 1835. The Sun newspaper in New York City printed a series of articles describing scientific findings about the Moon. They said the information came from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. The information was recounted by Dr. Andrew Grant, a colleague of the famous astronomer Sir John Herschel.

The articles described the flora and fauna of the moon, the beings that lived there and the temples where they lived. Those lunar folks were said to “average four feet in height, were covered, except on the face, with short and glossy copper-colored hair, and had wings composed of a thin membrane, without hair, lying snugly on their backs.”  All of this information was seen by an observatory at the Cape of Good Hope.

Of course, it was all a lie. No Dr. Grant, no observatory, no beings. But people believed this. Surprising? Well, people believed Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast about a hundred years later and thought aliens had landed in New Jersey. You don’t expect to read satire or find hoaxes in a newspaper or hear them on radio. People today sometimes see a tweet or link to a story from the satiric The Onion and react or pass it on as true.

Copies of the The Sun sold out and the series was getting reprinted all over the country and the world. The man behind all this was Richard Adams Locke, an editor at The Sun.  He claimed for a while that he hadn’t intended for anyone to believe the tales and that when he wanted to go public with the hoax  but the owner of the paper wouldn’t do it and it was many years before this ridiculous fake news was fully debunked. I suspect people had sopped believing it long before that, but who knows for sure.Edgar Allen Poe claimed the idea was plagiarized from a satire he’d written just a few weeks earlier about a man who made his way to the moon by hot air balloon.

You can listen to a two-part podcast about the Moon hoax here

Part 2

More Moon Mythology

I continue to collect mythology, folktales, legends and lore about our Moon.

Mt. Sinai was probably originally named after the Chaldean Moon god Sinn.

The name Mount St. Helens means “Moon Mountain.”

Arabs called white horses “Moon colored.”

It was said in Wales that if you moved from one house to another during the Crescent Moon you would have lots of prosperity in your life.

The word “create” comes from the same word root as the word “crescent.”

The natives of Madagascar call their home the Island of the Moon.

To aim at or “shoot for the Moon” means to be very ambitious and to set your sights extremely high.

A Waxing Crescent Moon to Start a Lunar Month

Full Moons get the most attention when it comes to lunar phases. But the New Moon (or Dark Moon) is also important in some cultures, and the waxing and waning phases and the two Crescent Moons also have beliefs attached to them.

In Cornwall, if a boy was born during a waning Moon, they said that the next birth would be a girl and both would be blessed.

In the lore of the Moon, it was said that to see the crescent Moon over the right shoulder was considered lucky, but seeing it over the left shoulder was unlucky. Since tonight’s Moon phase is a Waxing Crescent, be sure to look over your right shoulder tonight.

A Waxing Crescent is the first phase after the New Moon. This is actually an optimal time to see the features of the moon’s surface. During this phase, the Moon can be seen in the western sky after the Sun goes below the horizon. Right now, the Moon is close to the sun in the sky and mostly dark except for the right edge which becomes brighter as the days pass. The next phase is the First Quarter when it is  50% illuminated.

moon phases

Muslims around the globe are observing the holy month of Ramadan, which begins for most on either around  April 12 or 13 in 2021 when it was a Waxing Crescent Moon phase. That is the phase that looks like a  )  while the Waning Crescent looks like a  .

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of their holy book, the Quran, to Muhammad according to Islamic belief.

Since the Islamic calendar adheres to the lunar calendar of 12 months rather than the Gregorian calendar, a solar calendar used in the Western part of the globe, every month starts as the new crescent moon emerges. It continues for 29 or 30 days. Each year, this makes Ramadan start 10 to 12 days earlier. Their 12-month lunar year has a total of 354 or 355 days or is 11 days shorter than the seasonal year on which the Gregorian calendar is based.

Moonstruck and Other Moon Myths

ET Moon

In this edition of my continuing search for myths about the Moon (AKA Moon lore), I look at 10 more beliefs that are very likely to be more myth than reality. Still, they are interesting.

  1. The word moonshine has two meanings. In the U.S., it means “illegally distilled liquor,: also known as “white lightning.” An older meaning was “total nonsense.”
  2.  In English, French, Italian, Latin, and Greek, the Moon is feminine. But in all the Teutonic languages, the Moon is masculine. In Sanskrit, the word for the Moon is mas, which is masculine.
  3.  In medieval Europe and England, “Moon’s men” were thieves and highwaymen who plied their trade by night. The current term “moonlighting” is similar, meaning to hold down an additional night job.
  4. Originally, the term Moon-struck or Moon-touched meant chosen by the goddess. These people were considered to be blessed.
  5. In China, the Old Man in the Moon was Yue-lao. It was his duty to predestine the marriages of mortals. They said he tied the future husband and wife together with an invisible silk cord that never parted as long as they lived.
  6. In Ireland, it is said that if you walk nine times around a faery rath or hill at the Full Moon, you will be able to find the entrance.
  7. In some legends, The Egyptians said that the Dark Moon and the Full Moon were the two eyes of Horus.
  8. The horseshoe is a symbol of the Lunar crescent. Certain ancient British coins had the horse and the crescent on them. For the horseshoe, and the Crescent Moon to be lucky and hold the luck, the horns must be turned upwards.
  9. The eastern branches of the Eskimo clans say that their people came from the Moon to Earth.
  10. To cry for the Moon is an old saying that means you are craving or demanding something that you can’t have.

Harvesting a Moon of Dreams

full moon orange cloudsMy birthday month of October will be interesting in a lunar way this year. There will be two full Moons.

The first is the Harvest Moon tonight (October 1).  The Harvest Moon is either in September or October depending on which one occurs nearest to the autumnal equinox (It was September 22 this year).

The second Full Moon of the month just makes it in on the 31st. A second Full Moon in a month makes it a Blue Moon, but I suspect it will be more orange due to it falling on Halloween.

Perhaps, you would like to try an old English Harvest Moon ritual this year. It was thought of as something for women to do, but if you’re a man and you’re not old and English, I say go for it. It is supposed to show you your future.

You need to gather a key, a ring, a flower, a sprig of willow, a small piece of cake, a crust of bread, the 10 of clubs, 9 of hearts, ace of spades, and ace of diamonds. Wrap these in a handkerchief and place it under your pillow.

As you get into bed for the night, say:

Luna, every woman/man’s friend,
to me thy goodness descend.
Let me this night in visions see,
emblems of my destiny.

If you dream of storms, it means coming trouble; if the storms end, a calm fate after strife.
If you dream of a ring or the ace of diamonds, marriage.
Bread means a good job.
Cake means prosperity.
Flowers bring joy.
A willow indicates treachery in love.
Those spades foretell death. (Don’t dream about spades. Maybe don’t even put that card under your pillow!)
The clubs card means living in a foreign land.
Diamonds (by the way, it doesn’t have to be a card in your dream) means money.
Keys foretell great power.
Birds mean many children and geese means more than one marriage.

The Harvest Moon is the only Full Moon name I can think of that was used by both the English settlers and by many American Indian tribes of eastern and northern North America. Many staples like corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice were typically ready for harvest by this Full Moon.