What do YOU see in the full moon?

The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another;
and star differs from star in splendor. (1 Co 15:41 NIV)

Full moon, image courtesy nasa.gov

Full moon, image courtesy nasa.gov

by Rusty Pritchard

Full moon tonight. What do you see when you look up at the moon? Do you see the proverbial “man in the moon”? Or some other pattern? My kids got to stay up late tonight to see it when if finally emerged from the clouds over Atlanta, and they have very definite ideas about what patterns they see in the light and dark patches on the lunar surface. Use your imagination, and use the comments section below to tell us what you see!

We see the whole disc of the full moon when the moon, which revolves around the earth, is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun (like it is tonight). As the moon shifts in its relative position, it will now move over to the side of the earth, and in a week  it will be a “quarter” moon (although my two-year-old calls it a “hap moon” because it is half-illuminated). In two weeks it will be on the same side of the earth as the sun (rising and setting along with the sun) so we won’t really see it–both because the sun is so bright, and because we’d be seeing the shaded side anyway. We call that the “new moon”.

As the full moon shrinks to a quarter and then to a new moon, we say it is “waning”. After the new moon it will get a little bigger each day, and we say it is “waxing”. It’s fun to try to keep track of it. Your great-grandparents would probably have always known what phase of the moon we were in.

The moon rises a little later each day. Moonrise today was right about sundown, but the moon will be rising later in the evening each night. In about a week it will be rising at midnight, and when it is a new moon it will rise and set with the sun.

Sky and Telescope Magazine has a cool set of free online tools for tracking the moon (registration required).

And there’s a great explanation of the whole phenomenon of moon phases at howstuffworks.com.

Phases of the Moon from howstuffworks.com

Phases of the Moon from howstuffworks.com

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