Why Observe the Moon? Photography & Text by Keith R Wahl

January 18, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Why Observe the Moon?

Waxing Crescent Moon 20240117 

Waxing Crescent Moon 01 20240117 DSCN2071_displayWaxing Crescent Moon 01 20240117 DSCN2071_displayPhase: Waxing Crescent 17 January 2024
Illumination: 43%
Moon Age: 6.68 days
Moon Angle: 0.54
Moon Distance: 366,959.34 km
Sun Angle: 0.54
Sun Distance: 147,172,404.28 km

The Moon is our nearest celestial neighbor and a constant companion in the night sky. It has fascinated humans for millennia, inspiring myths, legends, art, and science. But why should we observe the Moon today? What can we learn from it, and how can it enrich our lives?

In this post, I will share my personal reasons for observing the Moon, as a captain and sailor who has been to sea and as someone who has taught astronomy. I will also give some tips on how to observe the Moon and what to look for.

The Moon and the Sea

As a sailor and captain, I have a special connection with the Moon, because it affects the tides and the currents of the sea. The Moon’s gravity pulls on the Earth’s oceans, creating bulges of water on both sides of the planet. These bulges move around the Earth as the Moon orbits, causing the water level to rise and fall at different locations and times. This is what we call the tide.

The tide has a significant impact on sailing, as it can affect the depth of the water, the speed and direction of the current, and the accessibility of harbors and ports. Knowing the tide cycle and the phase of the Moon can help sailors plan their routes and navigate safely.

The Moon also influences the strength of the currents, which are the horizontal movements of water caused by various factors, such as wind, temperature, salinity, and topography. The currents can vary depending on the phase of the Moon, which determines how much the Moon and the Sun align with the Earth. When the Moon is full or new, the Sun and the Moon are on the same or opposite sides of the Earth, creating a stronger gravitational pull and stronger currents. These are called spring currents. When the Moon is at first or third quarter, the Sun and the Moon are at right angles to the Earth, creating a weaker gravitational pull and weaker currents. These are called neap currents.

As a sailor, I have learned to appreciate the beauty and the power of the Moon and the sea, and how they interact with each other. I have also witnessed some amazing sights, such as the Moon rising or setting over the horizon, the Moon reflecting on the water, and the Moon casting shadows on the waves.

The Moon and the Sky

As a one-time astronomy teacher, I have a different perspective on the Moon, as I see it as a natural satellite and a scientific object. The Moon is a fascinating world to explore, with its craters, mountains, valleys, and seas. It is also a window to the past, as it preserves the history of the solar system and the Earth-Moon system.

The Moon is the easiest celestial object to observe, as it is visible most nights and does not require any special equipment. You can see a lot of details with just your eyes, and even more with binoculars or a telescope. You can also use a Moon map or an app to identify the features and learn their names and stories.

The Moon goes through different phases, as it orbits the Earth and reflects the Sun’s light. The phases are: new, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full, waning gibbous, third quarter, and waning crescent. The phases repeat every 29.5 days, which is called a lunar month or a synodic month.

The phases of the Moon are also related to some special events, such as eclipses and supermoons. An eclipse occurs when the Moon, the Earth, and the Sun align in a specific way, causing the Moon to pass through the Earth’s shadow (lunar eclipse) or the Earth to pass through the Moon’s shadow (solar eclipse). A supermoon occurs when the Moon is full and at its closest point to the Earth in its orbit, making it appear larger and brighter than usual.

As an astronomy teacher, I have enjoyed sharing my knowledge and passion for the Moon with my students and the public. I have also learned a lot from the Moon, as it is a source of wonder and discovery.

Conclusion

The Moon is more than just a bright disk in the sky. It is a complex and dynamic world that influences the Earth and its inhabitants in many ways. It is also a valuable resource for learning and inspiration, as it offers a variety of perspectives and experiences.

I hope this post has given you some reasons to observe the Moon and some ideas on how to do it. Whether you are a sailor, an astronomer, or just a curious person, I invite you to look up at the Moon and appreciate its beauty and mystery. You might be surprised by what you see and feel. 🌕

Waxing Crescent Moon 01 20240117 DSCN2071_displayWaxing Crescent Moon 01 20240117 DSCN2071_displayPhase: Waxing Crescent 17 January 2024
Illumination: 43%
Moon Age: 6.68 days
Moon Angle: 0.54
Moon Distance: 366,959.34 km
Sun Angle: 0.54
Sun Distance: 147,172,404.28 km
Waxing Crescent Moon 02 20240117 DSCN2077_displayWaxing Crescent Moon 02 20240117 DSCN2077_displayPhase: Waxing Crescent 17 January 2024
Illumination: 43%
Moon Age: 6.68 days
Moon Angle: 0.54
Moon Distance: 366,959.34 km
Sun Angle: 0.54
Sun Distance: 147,172,404.28 km

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© Keith R Wahl, Made From RI/Made From RI Gallery, 2024. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Keith R Wahl and Made From RI/Made From RI Gallery with appropriate and specific direction to the original.

 

 

 


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