Archives » the Moon

Has Something Happened to Saturn’s Rings?

Glancing at the image on Astronomy Picture of the Day for 16/3/20 you’d be forgiven for thinking so.

But it’s not Saturn.

It’s the Moon with a cloud partially obscuring it.


Wow. Just wow.

From Astronomy Picture of the Day for 12/10/19.

On the left the pale blue dot (Earth) as seen from Saturn. On the right Earth and Moon from Mercury.

Earth from Saturn and Mercury

Earthrise: Reconstruction

From Astronomy Picture of the Day for 23/12/18. A video reconstruction of the famous Earthrise, photographed by Apollo 8’s astronauts, fifty years ago today.

The Moon’s Movements

Taken from You Tube via Astronomy Picture of the Day for 12/9/18.

All the ways the Moon moves in a year. Courtesy of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. For full explanation see the 12/9/18 link.

(The soundtrack they’ve used is Johann Strauss II’s An der schönen blauen Donau known in English as The Blue Danube, which of course brings to mind the docking sequence from the film of 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

Earth from Saturn

A stunning picture of Saturn’s rings backlit by the sun from yesterday‘s Astronomy Picture of the Day. And between them the spot of light is Earth with the tiny pinprick to its left, the Moon.

This is a view that would have been difficult to imagine seeing when I was a lad.

Between the Rings

Moon’s Transit of Earth

This isn’t a view any human of even the relatively recent past could ever have seen: the Moon passing in front of the Earth:-

Full Mooon, Full Earth

From Astronomy Picture of the Day 7/8/15, this photo – taken by NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft – is captioned Full Moon, Full Earth, but of course it’s a New Moon; from the surface of the Earth all of the Moon would appear dark. The hemisphere of the Moon seen in the photo is of course its far side (which isn’t dark, except briefly: it gets as much sunlight as the near side does, only in reverse proportion.)

The DSCOVR spacecraft is situated at the Earth-Sun L1 Lagrange Point (see diagram – not to scale – below) where the orbit of a satellite is stable. As such it is perfectly placed to observe the Moon transit the Earth as above, which from its perspective occurs twice a year.

Earth-Sun Lagrange Points

Rotating Moon

Since it’s tidally locked to its parent planet people from Earth do not normally see the Moon rotating. However the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has built up a series of pictures allowing a video of the rotating Moon to be compiled. This video was Astronomy Picture of the Day for 16/9/13.

It starts with the familiar view from Earth – a side which has an abundance of dark areas known as maria which are relatively low-lying – then the rotation shows the “far” side as much lighter in colour. This lightness is due to lunar highlands.

The Eye With Which the Universe Beholds Itself by Ian Sales

Whippleshield Books, 2013, 80p.

This is the second in the Apollo Quartet, the first of which, Adrift on the Sea of Rains, has just won the BSFA Award.

Once again we have an Altered History. Here, Alexei Leonov was the first man on the Moon but the Russians quickly gave up going there to concentrate on Space Stations. Our hero, Brigadier General Bradley Elliott, USAF, though, was the first – and only – man on Mars, in 1979. What he found there drives the plot as he is recalled to NASA twenty years later to undertake a faster than light trip to Gliese 376 to investigate what has happened to the colony there.

As in Adrift, there are two strands interleaved with each other (which is not unusual) and tricks with typography but again the Glossary which follows rounds out the tale – even if one part of it appears to contradict a piece of dialogue in the text. That latter could have been a deliberate misdirection, though and a Coda explaining the central conception and the FTL drive is a less successful addition to the formula.

With his utilisation of the glossary Sales seems to have found a new way to tell the space exploration story. It is of course a species of info dumping but he has arguably turned the necessity into a strength.

He is very good on the nuts and bolts of space travel, especially if you can thole the alphabet soup of NASA terminology. A list of abbreviations is given to help with this. Elliott is a complex enough figure though the other characters are less fleshed out; but in an 80 page book only 47 of which are actual story it could hardly be otherwise.

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