Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I see the moon, and the moon sees me.

So here's a little question for you, in the same fashion as the age-old debate of "which came first, the chicken or the egg":

Do you see the man in the moon, or a bunny (up on its haunches with its head tilting back)?

Personally, I have always had this somewhat romantic idea of the moon. My bedroom window faced east growing up, so I always had a nice view of it in the sky, and I'm sure on more than one occasion I had a conversation or two with the "man in the moon" (answering the question of which of the two figures I see). I've always loved the song "Blue Moon", and one of my favorite movie scenes is from "Joe Versus the Volcano" when Joe is stranded out at sea, floating on his big fancy luggage, starting to lose it mentally, and the huge moon has risen above him.

My fascination with the moon has even carried over into my home decor. A couple of years ago I fell in love with a "piece of art" (at least in my eyes) at a local shop. I put it on layaway, paid it off, and brought it home, garnering some very strange looks from my husband. "You want to put that up? On our wall? Seriously?" was pretty much the reaction he gave me. Ever the dutiful husband that he is, though, he ended up digging his drill out of the garage and hanging it up for me. I had even taken it to a local frame shop and had them re-install the hanger on the back to make it tilt at just the right angle, instead of hanging straight like it came when I purchased it. (In my mind, the man in the moon smiles down with a tilted face.)

So, if you ever come to my house, you'll be greeted by a warm, smiling face in the living room. Or at least, I hope you'll think it is a warm, smiling face. I'm sure the occasional visitor is probably weirded out by it, but oh well.

All that aside, I was excited this afternoon to read an article on Yahoo talking about how tonight the moon will appear larger than normal and the explanation behind it:

"The moon illusion, as it's known, is a trick in our minds that makes the moon seem bigger when it's near the horizon. The effect is most pronounced at full moon. Many people swear it's real, suggesting that perhaps Earth's atmosphere magnifies the moon.

But it really is all in our minds. The moon is not bigger at the horizon than when overhead.

The illusion will be particularly noticeable at this "solstice moon," coming just two days before summer starts in the Northern Hemisphere. The reason, according to NASA, lies in lunar mechanics: The sun and full moon are like kids on a see-saw; when one is high, the other is low. This week's high solstice sun gives us a low, horizon-hugging moon and a strong, long-lasting version of the illusion.

If it's any consolation, space station astronauts report the same effect.

Here's how it works: Your mind believes things on the horizon are farther away than things overhead, because you are used to seeing clouds just a few miles above, but the clouds on the horizon can indeed be hundreds of miles away. So if we think something (such as the moon) is farther away, and it's not, then it seems larger."

I am hoping to catch a glimpse of this phenomenon tonight, but it all depends on if our skies are clear in Wonderland tonight. As if we haven't already had enough daily drenchings, we are supposed to have yet another round of thunderstorms come through sometime this evening. Guess I'd better go downstairs and ready my "rain-catcher" next to the chimney, just in case...

No comments: