Friday, November 25, 2011

Moon Feathers


The moon indeed possesses feathers.

It was only after moving to Spirit Creek, with the clear and panoramic views of the sky, that I finally understood the phases of the moon. I knew the moon was traveling around the earth and the phases were relative in relationship to the sun, but I was not clear in my mind how that made the moon appear in phases. When I observed for myself the full moon is opposite the sun in the sky and appears close to the sun at the new moon, I understood at last. It only took a little over forty years. Genius.

Many years ago, I received a Bushnell 60 mm telescope as a Christmas present. Included with the instructions for care and use, I found a newsletter devoted entirely to observing the moon. It contained a marvelous map of the lunar surface and ended with a few short paragraphs regarding an intriguing natural phenomenon known as "transient lunar phenomenon". It encouraged all amateur astronomers to be cognizant of the possibilities of observing a TLP. It included instructions for reporting any observations to NASA. It was before the internet, so people had to commit language to paper and physically ship the information via the United States Postal Service. Barbaric, I know.

This morning as I was scrolling through the full moon photos taken with my new camera, I remembered the request of NASA scientists for observations of the well-known phenomenon that has been witnessed throughout recorded history. It was a mystery to science in the late 1980's and I wondered if that riddle had been solved.

Thanks to Google, I instantly discovered that TLP has not yet been entirely solved by science.

From Wikipedia: "During the Apollo 11 mission Houston radioed to Apollo 11: "We've got an observation you can make if you have some time up there. There's been some lunar transient events reported in the vicinity of Aristarchus." Astronomers in Bochum, West Germany, had observed a bright glow on the lunar surface—the same sort of eerie luminescence that has intrigued moon watchers for centuries. The report was passed on to Houston and thence to the astronauts. Almost immediately, Armstrong reported back, "Hey, Houston, I'm looking north up toward Aristarchus now, and there's an area that is considerably more illuminated than the surrounding area. It seems to have a slight amount of fluorescence."

Though science does its best to suck the magic from our lives as brutally as a vampire drains his victim's blood, some things remain mysterious and wonderful, including the idea of vampires and the fact of transient lunar phenomenon. And, as you can see, I have irrefutable proof that moon feathers exist.

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