Friday, 8 January 2016

Our Moon

The Moon is our only natural satellite and it's one of the largest moons in the entire solar system. Its diameter is 3500km, or over one quarter of the Earth's diameter and much bigger than dwarf planet Pluto (just over 2.300km). It's much heavier than the latter too, over 5,5 times as heavy to be precise. Therefore our Moon is also one of the densest moons in the solar system, surpassed only by Jupiter's Io. It's believed to have formed shortly after the formation of Earth, approximately 4,5 billion years ago. One of the odd things about it is that it always shows us the same face. The near side, with its prominent "seas" of dark volcanic material, is also quite different than its far side which is mostly covered in impact craters. Although it looks very bright in the night's sky, its surface is actually as dark as worn asphalt.  

Next to the Sun the Moon has been the subject of study and worship since the dawn of civilisation. The Babylonians had already calculated a calendar to predict solar and lunar eclipses! But it was not until Galileo and his telescope that its true wasteland nature with its mountains and craters became known. Actually, during the Middle Ages people believed that its surface was perfectly smooth! Even today many people endow the Moon with magical powers and refer to the tides as proof of the effect that the Moon exerts on us all. The gravitational pull which creates the tides is however incredibly small, explaining why lakes or even the entire Mediterranean Sea don't have any tides at all (or very small ones). Several studies have in fact demonstrated that there is absolutely no correlation between a person's state of mind, the number of accidents or crimes or a person's character and the Moon whatsoever. 

Most astronomers don't really like the Moon at all. That's because even a small crescent Moon already reflects so much sunlight that it seriously impairs the observation of dimmer nightly objects. Yes, I have to admit it, I'm one of them and usually keep my telescope or binoculars locked up when the Moon's around. But some time ago I made an exception, under the influence of my fellow astronomy artists who publish some amazing works of art featuring the Moon's surface every month. So I just had to have a go at it as well and frankly, for being a first time ever, I'm more than pleased with the result. Especially creating the right colour effect proved to be tricky. I also tried to reflect the two halos created by my not very well aligned binoculars in the hazy summer atmosphere. Yes... this is more or less how I saw it.

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