Friday, July 18, 2008

Full Moon

Moon calendar July 2008It's a full moon tonight. You all know what that means - the moon will look like a big pale circle in the sky. Did you also know it means the moon will rise at around the same time as sunset, and the moon will set around the same size as sunrise? This is because the moon is full when it is directly opposite the sky from the sun, so they can't both be in the sky at the same time.

So if the moon is full tonight, what will it look like in one week's time?

a. It will be totally dark
b. It will be totally full
c. It will be a crescent like the letter "C"
d. It will be a half circle like the letter "C"
e. It will be a crescent like the letter "D"
f. It will be a half circle like the letter "D"

The answer is d. if you live in the northern hemisphere. If you live in the southern hemisphere the answer is f.

The moon completes a full cycle (new moon, waxing moon, full moon, waning moon, new moon again) in about 29 1/2 days, which is close enough to four weeks as a rule of thumb we can say it completes a quarter of its cycle in one week. This month encompasses a whole cycle quite handily, so the calendar I have reproduced above shows how the moon looks as it waxes and wanes. The thing I want you to remember is whether a "C" shape means the moon is waxing (getting bigger) or waning (getting smaller).

Northern Hemisphere
If you live in the northern hemisphere, the moon goes from dark, to a "D", to an "O", to a "C", then dark again. So the way to remember it is "Doctor Moon" - "D O C". Got that?

Southern Hemisphere
If you live in the southern hemisphere, the moon goes from dark, to a "C", to an "O", to a "D", then dark again. The way to remember it is "the moon if a fish" - "C O D". OK?

I find it oddly depressing that very few people seem to know this, but the majority of people can name Jennifer Aniston's husband.

18 comments:

just Gai said...

Thank you for your very enlightening explanation of the sequences of the moon. I have to confess that it was all new to me. I also have to confess to being one of those who know the name of Jennifer Aniston's husband (though only from hanging around in my GP's waiting room).

Sadly it's really only when I'm on holiday that I pay much attention to the moon, although I do remember being very impressed by last year's harvest moon. It's a sad refection of how modern city life has distanced us from the natural world, even though there are still so many manifestations of it around us. We've just lost the knack of looking for them.

gregra&gar said...

I find it depressing that you think people are that stupid.

heather t said...

um, people ARE that stupid. or at least uneducated (not taught) or ignorant (don't care). I even consider myself somewhat smartish and not at all current on celebrity news, yet I never did learn how the moon phases run - the DOC mnemonic will be quite helpful.

In my defense, I could NOT name Jennifer Aniston's husband. My first thought was, "Brad Pitt?" oopsie. :D

Z said...

I didn't know that Jennifer Anniston was married. I know whether the moon is waxing or waning though. Decreasing is a C, not a D. It's similar to the way I remember whether Juliet is a Montague or a Capulet. Juliet Capulet can't be right - oh, it is.

Matron said...

Excellent blog! I must have missed that lesson at school interesting stuff!

Anonymous said...

Hiya Mel.

I know it's not the point, but you seem to have started a discussion on whether Jen Aniston is married or not.

Just to put a stop to it, she's not! She divorced Brad Pitt about 4 or 5 years ago. And, yes, I read glossies!

Lindsey

Killi said...

I knew that D was INcrease, not DEcrease for the moon, but hadn't come across DOC before ~ brilliant mnemonic, thank you. I'm lucky as we have no street lighting up here & when I walk Annon to her dance class in the Winter, we try to find my favourite constellation & look at the stars, unfortunately more often it's cloudy, so no stars nor moon.

Who is Jennifer Anniston? I honestly don't know.

marigold said...

'Twas tragic in Galileo's day, and it's still tragic today.

Galileo:The Earth travels around the Sun

The Church:What?! Heretic!

neil said...

I can never remember which way the phases go - I don't see that as stupidity, I understand the phases, the reasons etc, just don't know the directions.

The same as I don't know whether the earth spins the same direction as it goes round the sun or the opposite direction.

femsc said...

gregra&gar - Where did Mel say that she thought people were stupid?

I find it depressing that so many people are more interested in the gossip columns than in huge things like basic astronomy. I find a lot of people depressing, but not because I think they're stupid. A lot of them are far from stupid, but they've never been taught things that should be general knowledge. That's not stupidity, it's ignorance. A lot of people don't realise they're ignorant, and would be offended if told.

There's a lot I don't know, but I rediscovered education a few years back and I'm well aware that learning never stops. I'm grateful to people like Mel, who explain things in a way I can understand. Thanks, Mel :)

Fran

neil said...

Isn't the answer d (not c) if you live in the northern hemisphere? - 'It will be a half circle like the letter "C"'.

i.e. why a cresent instead of half moon? That would seem to be asymmetrical.

Maybe I don't understand this as much as I thought ??

Melanie Rimmer said...

Well done, Neil, you spotted my deliberate mistake! Sorry, I slipped up. Neil is perfectly correct - one week after a full moon, the moon will appear as a more-or-less half circle in the shape of the letter "C" (as viewed from the northern hemisphere). That was option d. not option c. as I originally printed. I have corrected it now. You can check this by looking at the calendar that goes with this post.

Mel's sister Steph, aka Yellow said...

I'll tell you something that's better than Mel's blog - sitting in Mel's kitchen while she juggles apples and eggs, demonstrating the moon's phases. She's never dropped an egg yet, but she manages to scamble my brains. I love the way Mel can explain these princples in way's us mortals understand, while maintaining the sheer magic of it all.

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