Round Up Ready – Moon Edition

40 years ago Gene Cernan left the last bootprint on the Moon.

To commemorate that occasion here is a round up of Moon related stories.

The correct phase of the Moon is frequently ignored in Christmas illustrations.

The correct phase of the Moon is frequently ignored in Christmas illustrations, above, the phases are read from right to left, top to bottom.

Unfortunately, a study titled “Santa and the Moon” revealed that when it comes to Christmas imagery on gift wrapping paper and children’s books, the Moon is frequently depicted incorrectly. The paper (which despite focusing on visualizations of the Moon, has the most visually unappealing figures) notes that there are typically two ways of depicting the Moon, either a full Moon, or crescent Moon, on its first or last quarters. A crescent Moon on its way towards the first quarter is called a waxing Moon, which can be observed in the afternoon twilight and in the evening with its right hand side illuminated (for observers in the Northern Hemisphere, the top row in the above figure). A waning crescent Moon, which is illuminated from the left hand side, rises early in the morning (around 3 a.m., bottom row in the above figure) and can only be observed late at night and in the morning twilight. A full Moon is directly opposite the Sun in the sky, and hence it will rise at sunset. The paper sought to “quantify the level of ignorance concerning the phase of the evening Moon” by examining the depiction of the Moon on illustrations from children’s books, wrapping paper, and Christmas cards from the USA and the Netherlands. The paper found that designers of Christmas related illustrations, tend to draw the Moon according to their own taste and with disregard for astronomical precision, with the most common mistake being the depiction of a waning Moon (observable in the early morning) in an evening scene (as depicted here, as opposed to the correct waxing moon for an evening scene, as shown here). For shame Hallmark, for shame.

Regardless of how it is depicted, the Moon is always awesome, mysterious, beautiful, and hundreds of other adjectives, and we cannot return to it soon enough. Goodnight Moon.


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