Thursday, May 27, 2010

Catching the Moon

Sometimes I find poetry where none is intended. This morning it was an article in the Christian Science Monitor about the full moon, by Geoff Gaherty, Starry Night Education. This went into the poetic - and what is that? I have italicized the sentences I especially like -

"Now here is something strange. Full moon occurs at 7:07 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, yet the moon doesn't rise until around 8:30 p.m. The exact time of full moon is determined strictly by the geometry of the sun, Earth, and moon: all three fall in a straight line with the Earth in the middle. This is an instantaneous event, and happens at the same instant everywhere in the world, in this case happening when the moon is below the horizon in eastern North America.

Full moon happens in England at seven minutes past midnight British Summer Time, with the moon high overhead, because Britain is about a quarter of the way around the earth from eastern North America. The moon itself is quite indifferent to where on Earth people are observing it from.

Even though full moon occurs at a very specific instant each month, it looks full for a day or two on either side of that instant, at least to the naked eye. In a telescope, you can see the terminator, the line of sunset or sunrise on the moon, and see that it is not quite full.In fact, the moon is never truly full. When everything lines up perfectly, so that the moon's face would be 100 percent sunlit from our point of view, Earth gets in the way, blocks the lights from the sun, and causes a total lunar eclipse."

All right. Here are the statements that came forward out of a largely geometric description of this visual perception event:

Now here is something strange.

The moon itself is quite indifferent to where on Earth people are observing it from.

In fact, the moon is never truly full.

To write a poem, begin with statement one, its friendly, colloquial tone. Next, see where statement two takes you. It is such an interesting instance of anthropomorphizing the moon, something one doesn't expect at all in a scientific article. The moon has feelings, or not. Is nature indifferent to us?

Statement three is a kind of turning point, like, we have this delusion, but, as the author explains, the instantaneous event of full moon occurs while it is below the horizon. Thus, full moon cannot be observed. You can either not like that fact or get interested in the metaphor. There is lots of about the moon in Buddhist stories. Sometimes its reflection serves as a metaphor for delusion. In the image above, the monkey is trying to catch the moon by catching its reflection in the pond. Some versions of the story say, Poor monkey - all he gets is a wet paw.

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