That Ol' Devil Moon

At left, for your convenience because I think it's cool, I've added a little doodad in my sidebar that shows the current phase of the Moon.

Like any good astronomy nerd, I'm thoroughly fascinated by the Moon. Earth is the only one of the inner planets to have a regular, spherical satellite. Mars has two satellites - Demos and Phobos - but they are irregular, orbit in the "wrong" direction, and astronomers generally believe that they are captured asteroids. Our Moon, however, was created by a massive cosmic accident - a collision that sent a chunk of Earth flying off into space, where it eventually became the Moon.

Its phases are regular and predictable. Because the Moon orbits the Earth in the way that it does, and because it is the precise size that it is, we experience solar eclipses from time to time. As you may remember learning in junior high science class, the Moon is the cause of our tides. It is also in a state known as "tidal lock," meaning that the same face of the Moon is always pointing at the Earth. In spite of this, all 360° of the Moon do receive exposure to sunlight - there is, in fact, no "dark side of the Moon."

In the latter half of 1972, Pink Floyd recorded The Dark Side of the Moon. It was released in March of 1973, and spent 741 weeks on the Billboard 200 album chart. People say that album has an eerie synchronicity with the classic film The Wizard of Oz. If you start the album on the MGM lion's third roar, the lyrics synch up in odd ways with the action on-screen. This is an interesting coincidence that acquires enormous cosmic significance if you also start doing bong hits as soon as the album is playing. Otherwise, it's just something that makes you say, "Well, I'll be."

Twelve people have walked on the Moon, and none of them is David Gilmour. Some people claim that man traveling to the moon and returning safely is, in fact, impossible and that the entire enterprise was a hoax. They say that no amount of evidence will convince them that the Moon landings actually happened. Astoundingly, the fifth unique hit on a Google search for "moon landing" takes you to a conspiracy theory page. These are probably also the sort of people who believe that the Elders of Zion are plotting to take over the world, that extra-terrestrials landed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 and are currently being held prisoner by the Illuminati, and that fluoridated drinking water is a method of mind control.* They say that the flag planted by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin is waving in the breeze, even though there would be no breeze on the Moon. Even the briefest examination of the film demonstrates that this is not the case. And honestly, if NASA were to go to the effort of faking a moon landing, do you think they'd really be that careless?

Twelve men have, indeed, walked on the Moon. One of them, Alan Shepard, played golf on the Moon. To date, no other sporting events have been held on the Moon - though it is reasonable to assume that if the Lunar Excursion Module had been roomy enough for two Moon buggies rather than one, the astronauts would have raced them. Were the human race to be wiped out and all traces of our existence on Earth destroyed, nineteen names would survive on the plaques left behind on the LEMs - those of the astronauts who walked on the Moon, those of the command module pilots who remained in orbit, and on the original Apollo 11 plaque, that of Richard Milhaus Nixon.

The Moon was of great significance to the ancient astronomers - the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Babylonians, the Mayans.

It is said that the Moon is inherently female, inherently tied with the menstrual cycle. To the Greeks and Romans, the Moon was the province of the Goddess Artemis, just as was the Sun to her twin brother Apollo. To the Japanese, however, it is the Sun that is female, the Goddess Amaterasu, and the Moon is male, the God Tsukuyomi. To the Egyptians, both Sun and Moon were male, Ra and Thoth.

It is said that the full Moon drives men mad.

It is said that the Moon is a powerful influence on astrology.

It is said that the Moon is made of green cheese.

It is said that the Cow jumped over the Moon.

It is said that when the Moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore.


To learn more about the Moon, please visit your local library. Or use the internet. Or go track down your nearest astronomy nerd and bug him/her about it.

* Humble apologies if I've offended any of my loyal readers who actually believe any of this wacked-out crackpot bullshit.