The Ruler of the Night

by Morris Yoder | Mar 5, 2024 | 0 comments

The Moon definitely gets our attention as the ruler of the night. It overrules the dimmer sky objects when it comes out in full brightness. It also rules the ocean tides, dragging water back and forth across the Earth’s surface twice a day. There are lots of interesting things about the Moon, and we’ll notice a few of them here.

Blotchy Moon

Have you ever heard of the man in the Moon? The Moon has light and dark patches that cause some people to imagine seeing a face on it. The bright areas are the Moon’s highlands, and the dark areas are the lowlands. There’s more iron-rich basalt in the low areas. Some used to think the low areas looked like seas, so they named them just that, in Latin. They have the name Maria, which is Latin for seas.

Speedy Moon

Since the Earth is spinning, the Sun and Moon look like they go around us once per day, but that’s just the effect of Earth’s rotation. The Moon is orbiting us, though, and we can notice that motion from night to night. It’s speeding around Earth at about 3 times faster than a bullet from a .22 caliber rifle. It averages about 2,288 miles per hour.

Since it’s so far away, it doesn’t seem to be moving fast. It moves toward the east at about thirteen degrees per day, taking almost thirty days for the Moon to circle the Earth and return to the same place in our sky. You can notice this movement by observing that it rises about fifty minutes later each night.

Shiny Moon

The Moon reflects sunlight, but that’s not all. It reflects light from Earth too. If you see a thin crescent Moon at night, you can usually see the dark part of the Moon lit up slightly too. That light is called earthshine. It comes from light that has left the Sun, bounced off the Earth, then reflected off the Moon and into your eyes. The Moon’s actually not all that shiny though. It only reflects about twelve percent of the light that falls on it.

Distant Moon

The moon is almost 240,000 miles away from us. Flying straight there at the speed of a Delta jet would take almost twenty days. Sometimes it’s closer to the Sun than we are, and other times it’s farther away. You can tell at a glance if the Moon is closer to the Sun than we are. It’s whenever the Moon appears as a crescent.

Smiling Moon

When the Moon appears as a crescent, it’s always in a smiley orientation at night. It’s as if it were only happy to be up at night. The only time you can see the smile flipped upside down into a frown is at certain times during the daytime.

Bigger Moon

The Moon seems much bigger when it’s first rising close to the horizon. But, it’s actually bigger when it’s directly overhead! When it’s at the horizon, we are positioned down around the curve of the Earth and about 4,000 miles farther away. It’s then that the Moon is actually two percent smaller. The bigger appearance at moonrise is just an illusion.

If you really want to see a bigger Moon, watch for one of the supermoons. The Moon doesn’t have a perfectly circular orbit around the Earth, so sometimes it’s closer than others. When at its closest, it’s called a supermoon. There will be four full supermoons in a row this year, one each month from August through November. At those times, the Moon will be 14% closer and 30% brighter than when at its smallest. At its smallest, it’s called a micromoon. Either way, it still effectively rules the night, just as its Creator decreed.

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