Moon Question of the Day

Does the Moon rise and set in any particular time pattern?

The rising and setting of the Moon is retarded from day to day, but the delay is not consistent. At moonrise, the Moon occupies a particular place in the celestial sphere. Approximately 24 hours later, the Moon has moved to the east in the sphere, so moonrise and moonset occur a little later. In the northern United States, the daily delay can vary from a few minutes to well over an hour.

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Can you please tell me where I should go to see the "horns" of the Moon pointing up?

Around 18 to 28 degrees north latitude, the horns of the Moon at times point directly up. This happens just after sunset in the west, near the horizon, for a waxing Moon and just before sunrise in the east, near the horizon, for a waning moon. The same is true at around 18 to 28 degrees south latitude--just exchange east and west. A beautiful picture of the Moon with its horns pointing upward (but not straight up) is visible over a much wider area. In the United States, southern Florida is a great place to see this.

Can you please tell me where I should go to see the "horns" of the Moon pointing up?

Around 18 to 28 degrees north latitude, the horns of the Moon at times point directly up. This happens just after sunset in the west, near the horizon, for a waxing Moon and just before sunrise in the east, near the horizon, for a waning moon. The same is true at around 18 to 28 degrees south latitude--just exchange east and west. A beautiful picture of the Moon with its horns pointing upward (but not straight up) is visible over a much wider area. In the United States, southern Florida is a great place to see this.

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.

Has the Moon always been the same distance from the Earth?

No. It is drifting away from us, but it is doing so very slowly. It will not be appreciably farther away for hundreds of millions of years.

When does a new Moon rise?

The new Moon always rises at sunrise. The full Moon always rises at sunset.

Why does the Moon look so much bigger on the horizon than it does once it has risen higher in the sky?

When the Moon is on the horizon, you have other objects, such as houses and trees, to compare it to, so it looks larger. Once the Moon is in the sky, the only things to compare it to are the stars, which appear as tiny points of light. Hence the Moon looks smaller once it has risen.

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.

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