The Many Faces of our Amazing Moon

(source: hotash)

The Moon has a fascinating and colored place in human history. The Earth’s only natural satellite, and the fifth largest natural satellite in our solar system is also the only celestial body to which humans have traveled and landed on, with the United States Apollo program being the only one to achieve manned missions to date (a total of six landings between 1969 and 1972).

Let’s take a brief journey through some of the more interesting aspects of our moon.

Phases of the Moon

(sources: Wikipedia, Visual Dictionary Online, Moon Connection)

Understanding the phases of the moon can seem complex and confusing at first. However, if you pay attention to the diagram above, you’ll find that the whole process is quite easy to make sense of. At the very right we have sunlight coming from the sun, followed by the eight different phases of the moon (based on the position of the moon relative to the earth and the sun), and the earth in the center of the diagram. The phases start with the new moon when the moon is between the sun and the earth and the full moon, when the earth, the moon, and the sun are aligned with the earth in the middle, and the first quarter and third quarter phases (also called half moon phases) occurring in between. Finally the in between waxing and waning phases describe how much of the moon is illuminated and if it is increasing or decreasing in illumination – waxing refers to increasing, waning refers to decreasing, crescent means the moon is less than half illuminated, and gibbous means it’s more than half illuminated.

Lunar Eclipses

(sources: garyturner, fortphoto, peteashton)

Eclipses occur when the earth, the moon, and the sun are in a straight line. When the earth is in the middle (at full moon), we have a lunar eclipse because the sun, which is behind the earth, causes the moon, which is in front of the earth, to temporarily exist in the earth’s shadow and therefore be partially obscured. The most recent lunar eclipse, on February 20, 2008 was a total eclipse.

The Two Sides of the Moon

(source: Wikipedia)

Because one side of the moon always faces towards the earth and the other always faces away (they never switch places), we refer two them as the two sides of the moon. The side that faces the earth is called the near side, and the side that faces away, often inaccurately called the dark side (in actuality both sides are illuminated the same amount time, once every lunar day), is known as the far side of the moon. As you can see in the photographs above (the first image is the near side, and the third image is the far side, while the other two are 90-degree angle shots), the two sides are visually distinguished from each other in that the near side is full of dark lunar plains while none exist on the far side.

The Moon’s Relationship with the Earth

(sources: ugordan, garry61, frankloohuis)

Our moon isn’t just a pretty rock in the sky or the backdrop to many a couple’s romantic night out, it has a profound relationship with and impact on our planet. The moon makes a complete orbit around earth approximately every four weeks, and its gravitational pull is responsible for the tidal effects on earth. Not only that, but the cellestial body is responsible for spurring human imagination as it has provided the basis for countless works of literature, art, music, and as representative of the power of human endeavour.

The Moon from Around the World

(sources: visbeek, heartkins, swamysk, ectomorfo, keithbroch)

The moon has proven to be an incredible subject for photographers all over the world. The fact that it doesn’t look the same from any two different places, or on any two different days (partly due to it’s course and partly due to weather conditions and city lights), gives it the versatility that many dream of having in a subject.

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