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Moon Question of the Day

Where did the names of the days of the week come from?

The Babylonians named the days after the five planetary bodies known to them (Tuesday through Saturday) and after the Sun and Moon (Sunday and Monday). This custom was later adopted by the Romans. Emperor Constantine established the seven-day week in the Roman calendar in 321 and designated Sunday and Monday as the first two days of the week. The other weekday names in English are derived from Anglo-Saxon names for gods in Teutonic mythology. Tuesday comes from Tiu, or Tiw, the Anglo-Saxon name for Tyr, the Norse god of war. Tyr was one of the sons of Odin, or Woden, the supreme deity after whom Wednesday is named. Similarly, Thursday originates from Thor, the god of thunder. Friday is derived from Frigga, the wife of Odin, representing love and beauty.

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.

    What causes the distance from Earth to the Moon to vary?

    The celestial mechanics of the Moon's motion are very complex. When the distance to the Moon is measured at different times of the month, it is found to vary by more than 10 percent because the Moon's orbit is basically an ellipse, with Earth at one focus. The Moon may come as close as 356,334 kilometers (220,927 miles) to Earth's center and then move as far away from it as 406,610 kilometers (252,098 miles). The dates when the Moon is at apogee (the point in its orbit farthest from Earth) and perigee (the point in its orbit closest to Earth) can be found on each month's calendar page in The Old Farmer's Almanac. However, to understand the "mechanics," as mentioned above, we recommend consulting a basic astronomy textbook.

    Is a spring tide the same as a neap tide?

    No. Spring tides usually occur twice a month at the new and full Moons, when the Sun and Moon are in a straight line with Earth. Neap tides usually occur twice a month as well, but at the first quarter and last quarter Moons, when Earth is at right angles to the Sun and Moon. Spring tides are lower- and higher-than-usual tides, whereas neap tides are in the moderate range.

    What exactly is a waning or waxing gibbous or crescent Moon?

    First, gibbous refers to the shape you can see when the lighted surface of the Moon is bigger than a crescent shape; the crescent shape is defined by the distinct points on the lighted sliver. The Moon moves in these phases: new Moon, waxing crescent, first quarter Moon, waxing gibbous, full Moon, waning gibbous, last quarter Moon, waning crescent, back to new Moon. So waxing means the moon is on its way to being full; waning means the Moon is on its way to being new (the phase you really can't see).

    Is it true that when the Moon is tipped on its side, it is going to rain or snow?

    According to folklore, if the new crescent Moon holds its points upward, able to contain water, you can expect a dry spell. If it stands on its points, expect precipitation to spill out.

    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.

    Has anyone else seen a Moon rainbow? If so, are they common?

    The lunary rainbow, seldom seen, is usually observable soon after dark, following a brief summer storm or shower, when the Moon is nearly full.


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