Moon Question of the Day

How come longitude lines start in Greenwich, England?

The Royal Observatory Greenwich is located at the National Maritime Museum in London. The original site of the observatory was arbitrarily chosen as longitude 0 degrees in 1884. A plaque in the original structure marks the zero point from which longitude is calculated. The observatory was founded in 1675 by King Charles II to keep accurate tables of the position of the Moon for the calculation of longitude by English ships. In 1750 those tables were published as the Astronomical Observations, and after 1838 they were published annually. Meridian observations of the Sun, stars, and planets also were made at the observatory. Photographs of the Sun were taken daily, conditions permitting, and a continuous photographic record of sunspots was kept starting in 1873. Today the observatory is primarily a museum with a small planetarium.

Last 7 Days

    I was told about a documented case in which onlookers saw a blood-red Moon and stars falling from the sky. Where might I find this piece of documentation?

    Astronomically speaking, it is possible to observe a "bloody" Moon during a lunar eclipse, when Earth's shadow casts a dark reddish color on the Moon. And, indeed, stars often appear to "fall" from the sky. But we think that what you have in mind is not an astronomically documented case but a quote from the Bible, specifically from Revelation (6:12-13): "And the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind."

    What have our astronauts left behind on the surface of the Moon?

    Well, there's quite an inventory. Of course, there's the American flag, left by the first visitor, Neil Armstrong. The first Apollo landing crew also left a commemorative plaque. The remains of seven unmanned lunar probes, Surveyors 1 through 7, are there, plus three lunar rovers. There are six long-term scientific stations on the Moon, which include seismometers to measure tremors in the Moon's crust and some reflectors to bounce back light beams that we send up there. The Russians left several unmanned probes and assorted lunar rovers on the Moon as well.

    What is the most recent year that had a full Moon on February 29?

    This occurred most recently in 1972. This is indeed a rare event, since the next most recent year was 1820.

    What is the temperature on the Moon?

    Daytime temperature is about 235 degrees F. Nighttime temperatures can drop to -275 degrees F.

    Who were the Roman and Greek goddesses of the Moon and the sea?

    Diana was the Roman goddess of the Moon. She was a "multipurpose" goddess, presiding over the hunt and childbirth, among other things. In her incarnation as Moon goddess, she was known as Luna. Artemis was the Greek goddess of the Moon. Gods, not goddesses, ruled the sea -- Neptune in Roman mythology and Poseidon in Greek.

    Is there such a thing as "Moon weather"?

    Country wisdom says that the full Moon brings frosts in spring and fall and periods of extreme cold in winter. Researchers have found a striking correlation between the full Moon and cloudiness, rainfall and thunderstorms.

    How did the special names that we give some of the Moons, such as the Hunter's Moon, begin?

    Historically, the Native Americans of the northern and eastern United States kept track of the seasons by giving a distinctive name to each full Moon. With some variation, the same names were used throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. These remain the full Moon names we use today.

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