Blue Moon

Blue Moon

Looking back on August it was an interesting month for a number of reasons. 2 full moons occurred – which is termed the Blue Moon. It will occur again in 2015.

It was also the month Neil Armstrong died. Langholm, in the Scottish Borders, was a place he visited some years ago to find out about the Armstrong Clan when he visited their museum. His photograph is on the display there, dressed in his astronaut outfit. On news of his death, various people of Langholm spoke on the radio about the memory of the surprise visit of this special man. All over the world, those old enough to remember, relived the morning we watched transfixed as he stepped on to the moon in 1969.

The night of the 30th August was the coldest ever recorded for this month in the UK.

I saw the fading Blue Moon today in the western sky as the sun was rising in the east. When the moon was born, around 4.5 billion years ago, it was about 22,500km (14,000 miles) away, compared with the quarter of a million miles (402,336 km) today. Patrick Moore has been explaining the Universe to his UK audience since I was a child. He is now 89. He has always had a particular interest in the Moon, particularly the far side, a small part of which is visible from Earth as a result of the Moon’s libration; the Moon has remained his specialist subject all through his life. But he talked us through the long transmisson gaps of the morning when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. The BBC had lost the tapes of their historic commentary, but listeners had called in to BBC Radio 4 to say they had retained quality recordings. After all these years we heard clips from these pristine tapes and it was so evocative.

Patrick Moore will no doubt be excited that researchers are still pressing to study the dark side of the moon just as he has always thought there should have been more dust collections from that side. The moon is directly exposed to the solar wind (streams of high-energy particles, consisting mostly of hydrogen atoms and ions (protons) constantly emitted by the Sun). But the side facing the sun will have the depth of dust destroyed by the Sun’s rays, but the dark side will not. The history of the impact of these solar winds will be archived over several billion years in the depth of dust on the dark side. Understanding what is happening to the Sun is obviously important as we depend on it for Life itself. The Sun has been found to be changing in a complex way and scientists can more easily study the moon to find out what is happening to the sun.

The BBC website explained the following:

The migration of the Moon away from the Earth is mainly due to the action of the Earth’s tides.

The Moon is kept in orbit by the gravitational force that the Earth exerts on it, but the Moon also exerts a gravitational force on our planet and this causes the movement of the Earth’s oceans to form a tidal bulge.

Due to the rotation of the Earth, this tidal bulge actually sits slightly ahead of the Moon. Some of the energy of the spinning Earth gets transferred to the tidal bulge via friction.

This drives the bulge forward, keeping it ahead of the Moon. The tidal bulge feeds a small amount of energy into the Moon, pushing it into a higher orbit like the faster, outside lanes of a test track.

This phenomenon is similar to the experience one feels on a children’s roundabout. The faster the roundabout spins the stronger the feeling of being slung outwards.

As the Earth’s rotation slows down, our whole planet may start to slowly wobble and this will have a devastating effect on our seasons.

During August, researchers from the University of Bern, Switzerland, made a significant breakthrough suggesting an answer to this Lunar Paradox.

They think they have a new explanation for how the moon may have formed rather than the one we are used to hearing about a major collision between Earth and an impactor the size of Mars, known as ‘Theia’.

Scientists have simulated the collision, 4.5 billion years ago, between Earth and an impactor the size of Mars, known as ‘Theia’ this process is known as the ‘lunar paradox’. Contrary to belief, the moon appears to be made up of material that would not be expected if the current collision theory is correct. ‘Our model considers new impact parameters, which were never tested before,’ said lead author Andreas Reufer.

Exploring a different geometry than previous simulations, they considered new impact configurations such as the so-called “hit-and-run collisions,” where a significant amount of material is lost into space on orbits unbound to Earth.

“Our model considers new impact parameters, which were never tested before. Besides the implications for the Earth-Moon system itself, the considerably higher impact velocity opens up new possibilities for the origin of the impactor and therefore also for models of terrestrial planet formation,” explains lead author of the study, Andreas Reufer.

“While none of the simulations presented in their research provides a perfect match for the constraints from the actual Earth-Moon-system, several do come close,” adds Alessandro Morbidelli, one of the Icarus’ Editors. “This work, therefore, suggests that a future exhaustive exploration of the vast collisional parameter space may finally lead to the long-searched solution of the lunar paradox”.

This is all very interesting but most of us non scientists love the Moon for its radiant light when the countryside is otherwise pitch black. But it depends on your circumstances why you may prefer a moon – or not. WWII pilots called such light the ‘Bombers Moon’ as the illumination helped them take aim more directly. The Moon’s light also reflected in bodies of water which would help with identifying places such as dams. The citizens below feared a full moon knowing the bombers could hone in on their location more exactly. Escaping from well guarded territory was also not a good idea on a moonlit night.

During the day yesterday there were several fox hunts. I saw two cubs break cover and be pursued by the 40 or so hounds near our cottage. I don’t know if they escaped but my heart hurt to watch this ‘sport’ at such close quarters. The full moon will prevent the night time fox hunts where the lampers use a 4×4 and three men to kill the fox. One man drives, one man shines a bright lamp, one man aims the gun when they have identified the fox, usually frozen in fascination by the light, its red eyes looking back at the gun. All this happens around our cottage, and often the lamp shines in the bedroom window for some time. Do they think I am keeping a fox in there?

I used to have a Siberian Husky and she used to howl at the moon. She looked just like a wolf. I loved her to do that.

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About borderslynn

Retired, living in the Scottish Borders after living most of my life in cities in England. I can now indulge my interest in all aspects of living close to nature in a wild landscape. I live on what was once the Iapetus Ocean which took millions of years to travel from the Southern Hemisphere to here in the Northern Hemisphere. That set me thinking and questioning and seeking answers.
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