Moon Question of the Day

What do the phrases "Moon rides high" and "Moon runs low" in the Almanac mean?

As the equator wraps around Earth, so the celestial equator wraps around the sky. It runs in an arc from east to west, passing low in the south; the farther north one stands, the lower it passes. When the Moon runs low in the sky, it is the farthest beneath this equator. If you live sufficiently far north, it will never rise above the horizon at night. Similarly, the Moon will be unusually high in the sky when it rides high.

Last 7 Days

What would happen if Earth's rotation started to slow down?

Earth is already slowing down and has been doing so for billions of years. At the present time, our planet is slowing down by about .002 second per century. The slowing occurs mainly because of friction between solid earth and ocean tides. Earth's loss of rotational energy is transferred to the Moon, which goes into a wider orbit, thus lengthening the time between successive full Moons.

Why don't eclipses occur every month?

If the Moon always moved on exactly the same path, and if that path crossed in front of the Sun, there would indeed be an eclipse every month--two of them, in fact, one of the Sun and one of the Moon. But the Moon's path is more complicated than that, and most months it passes above or below the Sun.

As we watch the Moon move across the sky, how much is it moving, versus the Earth's own movement?

When you watch the Moon move from east to west, it travels its own diameter in about 3 minutes. The speed at which we see it move is mostly due to the Earth's movement, not the Moon's. The Earth's movement accounts for 95 percent of the shifting position of the Moon. The other 5 percent is actually the Moon itself moving.

How much space junk is out there?

Tons of space junk is orbiting the Earth and sitting on the surfaces of the Moon, Venus, and Mars. The Moon alone has 20 tons of it. These are man-made items that space explorers have left behind. Since 1957, when the Russians launched the first artificial satellite, we've left our junk in the skies and on other planets--sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident. Among this debris is a glove somebody lost on the first space walk, from Gemini 4; a camera from Gemini 10; and miscellaneous pieces of rocket boosters and spacecraft. Some of these objects will eventually fall to Earth, others will burn up as they enter Earth's atmosphere, and still others will remain in space for many, many years.

How much space junk is out there?

Tons of space junk is orbiting the Earth and sitting on the surfaces of the Moon, Venus, and Mars. The Moon alone has 20 tons of it. These are man-made items that space explorers have left behind. Since 1957, when the Russians launched the first artificial satellite, we've left our junk in the skies and on other planets--sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident. Among this debris is a glove somebody lost on the first space walk, from Gemini 4; a camera from Gemini 10; and miscellaneous pieces of rocket boosters and spacecraft. Some of these objects will eventually fall to Earth, others will burn up as they enter Earth's atmosphere, and still others will remain in space for many, many years.

Why did the old almanacs always recommend planting potatoes on Good Friday?

We can't speak for other old almanacs, but certainly The Old Farmer's Almanac has never recommended planting potatoes on Good Friday; our only recommendation has been to plant by the dark of the Moon. Further, all our research has turned up contrary advice -- neither to plant nor to dig potatoes on Good Friday. It was thought the timing would produce poor crops. The Creoles of Louisiana believed that if the ground were cut open on this day, Christ's blood would run out into the rows. The only exception we found was an old belief that seeds planted on Good Friday will thrive.

Do the phases of the Moon really affect whether fish will bite or not?

We always say that fishing is best when the Moon is between new and full. We also suggest that you go fishing when the breeze is from the west. Another sure time is one hour before or after high or low tide (inland times for high tides correspond to when the Moon is due south, and low tides are halfway between high tides).

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