List of adjectivals and demonyms of astronomical bodies
The adjectival forms of the names of astronomical bodies aren’t always easily predictable. Attested adjectival forms of the larger bodies are listed below, along with non-obvious derivations of some smaller bodies; in some cases these are accompanied by their demonymic equivalents, which denote purported inhabitants of these bodies.
Many of the more recent or more obscure names are only attested in mythological or literary contexts, rather than in specifically astronomical contexts. Forms ending in -ish or -ine, such as “Puckish”, aren’t included below if a derivation in -an is also attested. Rare forms, or forms only attested with spellings not in keeping with the IAU-approved spelling, are shown in italics.
The ending -ian is always unstressed: /iən/. The similarly spelled ending -ean has traditionally been stressed, /ˈiːən/, but in practice it is often pronounced as if it were -ian. This dichotomy should be familiar from the dual pronunciations of Caribbean: karr-i-BEE-ən, kə-RIB-i-ən.
Adjectival forms of constellations are used primarily for meteor showers. These are based on the genitive form of the constellation, which is used to name stars. Independent adjectival forms are less common.
See additional minor planet forms.
This approach isn’t foolproof; note Italian Eros above and Russian Немесида Nemesida, but Italian Nemesi and English adj. Nemesian.
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A supermoon is the coincidence of a full moon or a new moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, resulting in the largest apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth. The technical name is the perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system. The term “supermoon” isn’t astronomical, but originated in modern astrology. The association of the Moon with both oceanic and crustal tides has led to claims that the supermoon phenomenon may be associated with increased risk of events such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, but the evidence of such a link is widely held to be unconvincing.
The most recent occurrence was on June 23, 2013, as the closest and largest full moon of the year and the Moon’s closest encounter with Earth for all of 2013. It will not be so close again until August 10, 2014.
Supermoons occur about once every 14 full moons in a full moon cycle.
According to NASA, a full moon at perigee is up to 14% larger and 30% brighter than one at its farthest point, or apogee. The full Moon occurring less than one hour away from perigee is a near-perfect coincidence that happens only every 18 years or so.
Moon at or near its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit (perigee). In short, Earth, Moon and Sun are all in a line, with Moon in its nearest approach to Earth.
Nolle also, wrongly, claimed that the moon causes “geophysical stress” during the time of a supermoon. Nolle never outlined why the 90% was chosen.
The term supermoon isn’t used within the astronomical community, which use the term perigee-syzygy or perigee moon. Perigee is the point at which the Moon is closest in its orbit to the Earth, and syzygy is a full or new moon, when the Earth, the Moon and the Sun are aligned. Hence, a supermoon can be regarded as a combination of the two, although they don’t perfectly coincide each time. On average, about once a year the moon becomes full within a few hours of perigee.
The combined effect of the Sun and Moon on the Earth’s oceans, the tide, is greatest when the Moon is either new or full. At lunar perigee the tidal force is somewhat stronger, resulting in perigean spring tides. But even at its most powerful this force is still relatively weak causing tidal differences of inches at most.
As the tidal force follows an inverse-cube law, that force is 18% greater than average. However, because the actual amplitude of tides varies around the world, this may not translate into a direct effect.
It has been claimed that the supermoon of March 19, 2011 was responsible for the grounding of five ships in the Solent in the UK, but such claims aren’t supported by scientific evidence.
Certain prognosticators have moved the goalposts to within 1 or 2 weeks of a supermoon to suggest a causal relationship with specific natural disasters such as the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. However in both cases the Moon was actually farther from the Earth than average. No evidence has been found of any correlation with major earthquakes.
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The Moon is made of green cheese
The Moon is made of green cheese” is a statement referring to a fanciful belief that the Moon is composed of cheese. In its original formulation as a proverb and metaphor for credulity with roots in fable, this refers to the perception of a simpleton who sees a reflection of the Moon in water and mistakes it for a round cheese wheel. It is widespread as a folkloric motif or meme among many of the world’s cultures, and the notion has also found its way into both children’s folklore and into modern popular culture.
The phrase “green cheese” in this proverb simply refers to a young cheese, though modern people may interpret the colour reference literally.
There was never an actual historical popular belief that the Moon is made of green cheese. Indeed, it was typically used as an example of extreme credulity.
In ancient times the Moon, like the rest of the celestial realm above the sublunary sphere, was considered to be made of an otherworldly and perfect “fifth element” or quintessence as identified by Aristotle in On Generation and Corruption. With the coming of the Copernican Revolution, Galileo Galilei 1st announced his telescopic discoveries suggesting the Moon was of the same basic nature as the Earth in Sidereus Nuncius in 1610. In the Space Age, lunar missions for the 1st time allowed direct examination of Moon rocks, suggesting the giant impact hypothesis, but the overall proportional composition of lunar geology is still debated, with different implications for the Moon’s origin.
This folkloric motif is 1st recorded in literature during the High Middle Ages with the French rabbi Rashi, who attributes it to the Talmudic era Rabbi Meir; this may reflect the well-known beast fable tradition of French folklore or an obscure such tradition in Jewish folklore; Rashi’s version already includes the fox, the wolf, the well and the Moon that are seen in later versions. The Iraqi rabbi Hai Gaon also attributed a tale sharing elements of Rashi’s story to Rabbi Meir. Petrus Alphonsi, a Spanish Jewish convert to Christianity, popularized this tale in Europe in his collection Disciplina Clericalis.
One of the facets of this morphoplogy is grouped as “The Wolf Dives into the Water for Reflected Cheese” of the Aarne–Thompson classification of folktales, in the section devoted to tales of The Clever Fox. It can also be grouped as “The Moon in the Well” (Type 1335A), in the section devoted to Stories about a Fool.
A variation featuring Reynard the Fox appeared soon after Petrus Alphonsi in the French classic Le Roman de Renart ; the Moon/cheese element is absent, but such a version is alluded to in another part of the collection. This was the 1st Reynard tale to be adapted into English (as “The Fox and the Wolf”), preceding Chaucer’s “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” and the much later work of William Caxton.
The Moon is made of green cheese” was one of the most popular proverbs in 16th and 17th century English literature, and it was also in use after this time. It likely originated in 1546, when The Proverbs of John Heywood claimed “the moon is made of a greene cheese.”[A] A common variation is “to make one believe the Moon is made of green cheese”.
In French, there is the proverb “Il veut prendre la lune avec les dents”, alluded to in Rabelais.
The characterization is also common in stories of gothamites, including the Moonrakers of Wiltshire.
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In mythology, a lunar deity is a god or goddess associated with or symbolizing the moon. These deities can have a variety of functions and traditions depending upon the culture, but they are often related to or an enemy of the solar deity. Even though they may be related, they are distinct from the solar deity. Lunar deities can be either male or female, and are usually held to be of the opposite sex of the corresponding solar deity. Male lunar deities are somewhat more common worldwide, although female deities are better known in modern times due to the influence of classical Greek and Roman mythology, which held the moon to be female.
The monthly cycle of the moon, in contrast to the annual cycle of the sun’s path, has been implicitly linked to women’s menstrual cycles by many cultures, as evident in the links between the words for menstruation and for moon in many resultant languages. Many of the most well-known mythologies feature female lunar deities, such as the Greek goddesses Phoebe, Artemis, Selene, and Hecate as well as the Chinese goddess Chang’e.
Male lunar gods are also frequent, such as Sin of the Mesopotamians, Mani of the Germanic tribes, the Japanese god Tsukuyomi. These cultures usually featured female Sun goddesses. There are also many lunar deities that were prevalent in Greek and Egyptian civilizations. For example, Ibis and Chonsu of Thebes were both lunar deities. Thoth was also a lunar deity, but his character is considerably more complex than Ibis and Chonsu.
Also of significance is that many religions and societies are oriented chronologically by the Moon as opposed to the sun. One common example is Hinduism in which the word Chandra means Moon and has religious significance during many Hindu festivals.
The moon is also worshipped in witchcraft, both in its modern form and in Medieval times, for example, in the cult of Madonna Oriente.
While many Neopagan authors and feminist scholars claim that there was an original Great Goddess in prehistoric cultures that was linked to the moon and formed the basis of later religions, the Great Goddess figure is highly speculative and not a proven concept. It may be noted that most of the oldest civilizations mentioned above had male lunar deities and it was only later cultures, the classical ones most people are familiar, that featured strong female moon goddesses.
The moon features prominently in art and literature and also the purported influence of the moon in human affairs remains a feature of astrology and theology.
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A full moon is the lunar phase that occurs when the Moon is completely illuminated as seen from the Earth. This occurs when the Moon is in opposition with the Sun. This means that the hemisphere of the Moon that is facing the Earth (the near side) is almost fully illuminated by the Sun and appears round (while the far side is almost completely unilluminated).
The time interval between similar lunar phases—the synodic month—averages about 29.53 days. Therefore, in those lunar calendars in which each month begins on the new moon, the full moon falls on either the 14th or 15th of the lunar month. Because lunar months have a whole number of days, lunar months may be either 29 or 30 days long.
A full moon is often thought of as an event of a full night’s duration. This is somewhat misleading because the Moon seen from Earth is continuously becoming larger or smaller. Its absolute maximum size occurs at the moment expansion has stopped, and when graphed, its tangent slope is zero. For any given location, about half of these absolute maximum full moons will be potentially visible, as the other half occur during the day, when the full moon is below the horizon. Many almanacs list full moons not just by date, but by their exact time as well, usually in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Typical monthly calendars that include phases of the moon may be off by one day if intended for use in a different time zone.
Full moons are generally a poor time to conduct astronomical observations, since the bright reflected sunlight from the moon overwhelms the dimmer light from stars.
On 21 December 2008, the full moon occurred closer to the Earth than it had at any time for the previous 15 years.
N is the number of full moons since the 1st full moon of 2000. The true time of a full moon may differ from this approximation by up to about 14.5 hours as a result of the non-circularity of the moon’s orbit. See New moon for an explanation of the formula and its parameters.
The age and apparent size of the full moon vary in a cycle of just under 14 synodic months, which has been referred to as a full moon cycle.
Full moons are traditionally associated with temporal insomnia, insanity and various “magical phenomena” such as lycanthropy. Psychologists, however, have found that there is no strong evidence for effects on human behavior around the time of a full moon. They find that studies are generally not consistent, with some showing a positive effect and others showing a negative effect. In one instance, the 23 December 2000 issue of the British Medical Journal published two studies on dog bite admission to hospitals in England and Australia. The study of the Bradford Royal Infirmary found that dog bites were twice as common during a full moon, whereas the study conducted by the public hospitals in Australia found that they were less likely.
Some full moons have developed new names in modern times, e.g. the blue moon, and the names “harvest moon” and “hunter’s moon” for the full moons of autumn.
Harvest Moon” and “Hunter’s Moon” are traditional terms for the full moons occurring in autumn, usually in September and October, respectively. The “Harvest Moon” is the full moon closest to autumnal equinox, and the “Hunter’s Moon” is the one following it. The names are recorded from the early 18th century. OED for “Harvest Moon” cites a 1706 reference, and for “Hunter’s Moon” a 1710 edition of The British Apollo, where the term is attributed to “the country people” The names became traditional in American folklore, where they are now often popularly attributed to “the Native Americans”. The Feast of the Hunters’ Moon is a yearly festival in Lafayette, Indiana, held in late September or early October each year since 1968. In 2010, the Harvest moon occurred on the night of equinox itself (some 5x hours after the point of equinox) for the 1st time since 1991.
All full moons rise around the time of sunset. Because the moon orbits the earth in the same direction the earth is rotating, the moon rises later each day – on average about 50 minutes later each day. The Harvest Moon and Hunter’s Moon are unique because the time difference between moonrises on successive evenings is much shorter than average. The moon rises approximately 30 minutes later from one night to the next, as seen from about 40 degrees N or S latitude. Thus, there is no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise for several days following the actual date of the full moon.
The Maine Farmers’ Almanac from c. the 1930s began to publish “Indian” full moon names. The Farmers’ Almanac continues to do so.
A remnant of the lunisolar calendar is found in certain religious calendars, most notably the date of Passover and Easter in Judaism and Christianity, respectively. The date of the Jewish Sukkot festival is also dependent on the date of a full moon.
In lunisolar calendars, an intercalary month occurs 7 times in the 19 years of the Metonic cycle, or on average every 2.7 years.
In the modern system of “traditional” full moon names tied to the solstice and equinox points, a supernumerary full moon in such a period is called a blue moon. The term “blue moon” used in this sense may date to as early as the 16th century, but it became well known in the United States due to the Farmers’ Almanac.
According to the Farmers’ Almanac, a “blue moon” is the 3rd full moon in any period between either solstice and equinox, or between equinox and solstice, which contains four full moons. Due to a misinterpretation of this definition in the March 1946 Sky & Telescope magazine, “blue moon” has also been used in the sense of “the 2nd full moon in any month which contains two full moons. According to either definition, “blue moons” occur with the average frequency of intercalary months, seven times in 19 years, the Farmers’ Almanac system of “full moon names” effectively defining a lunisolar calendar.
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The Moon illusion is an optical illusion in which the Moon appears larger near the horizon than it does while higher up in the sky. This optical illusion also occurs with the Sun and star constellations. It has been known since ancient times and recorded by various cultures. The explanation of this illusion is still debated.
The angle that the full Moon subtends at an observer’s eye can be measured directly with a theodolite to show that it remains constant as the Moon rises or sinks in the sky. Photographs of the Moon at different elevations also show that its size remains the same.
Through additional works based on Ibn al-Haytham’s explanation, the Moon illusion came to be accepted as a psychological phenomenon in the 17th century.
According to Schopenhauer, the illusion is “purely intellectual or cerebral and not optical or sensuous.” The brain takes the sense data that is given to it from the eye and it apprehends a large moon because “our intuitively perceiving understanding regards everything that is seen in a horizontal direction as being more distant and therefore as being larger than objects that are seen in a vertical direction.” The brain is accustomed to seeing terrestrially–sized objects in a horizontal direction and also as they are affected by atmospheric perspective, according to Schopenhauer.
A central question pertaining to the Moon illusion, therefore, is whether the horizon moon appears larger because its perceived angular size seems greater, or because its perceived physical size seems greater, or some combination of both. There is currently no firm consensus on this point.
Historically, the best-known alternative to the “apparent distance” theory has been a “relative size” theory. This states that the perceived size of an object depends not only on its retinal size, but also on the size of objects in its immediate visual environment. In the case of the Moon illusion, objects in the vicinity of the horizon moon exhibit a fine detail that makes the Moon appear larger, while the zenith moon is surrounded by large expanses of empty sky that make it appear smaller.
The effect is illustrated by the classic Ebbinghaus illusion shown at the right. The lower central circle surrounded by small circles might represent the horizon moon accompanied by objects of smaller visual extent, while the upper central circle represents the zenith moon surrounded by expanses of sky of larger visual extent. Although both central circles are actually the same size, many people think the lower one looks larger.
According to the “angle of regard” hypothesis, the Moon illusion is produced by changes in the position of the eyes in the head accompanying changes in the angle of elevation of the Moon. Though once popular, this explanation no longer has much support.
Most recent research on the Moon illusion has been conducted by psychologists specializing in human perception. After reviewing the many different explanations in their 2002 book The Mystery of the Moon Illusion, Ross and Plug conclude “No single theory has emerged victorious”. The same conclusion is reached in the 1989 book, The Moon Illusion edited by Hershenson, which offers about 24 chapters written by different illusion researchers.
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A month is a unit of time, used with calendars, which was 1st used and invented in Mesopotamia, as a natural period related to the motion of the Moon; month and Moon are cognates. The traditional concept arose with the cycle of moon phases; such months are synodic months and last approximately 29.53 days. From excavated tally sticks, researchers have deduced that people counted days in relation to the Moon’s phases as early as the Paleolithic age. Synodic months, based on the Moon’s orbital period, are still the basis of many calendars today, and are used to divide the year.
The following types of months are mainly of significance in astronomy, most of them 1st recognized in Babylonian lunar astronomy.
The period of the Moon’s orbit as defined with respect to the celestial sphere ) is known as a sidereal month because it is the time it takes the Moon to return to a given position among the stars (Latin: sidera): 27.321661 days (27 d 7 h 43 min 11.5 s). This type of month has been observed among cultures in the Middle East, India, and China in the following way: they divided the sky into 27 or 28 lunar mansions, one for each day of the month, identified by the prominent star(s) in them.
It is customary to specify positions of celestial bodies with respect to the vernal equinox. Because of precession, this point moves back slowly along the ecliptic. Therefore it takes the Moon less time to return to an ecliptic longitude of zero than to the same point amidst the fixed stars: 27.321582 days. This slightly shorter period is known as tropical month; cf. the analogous tropical year of the Sun.
The Moon’s orbit approximates an ellipse rather than a circle. However, the orientation of this orbit isn’t fixed. In particular, the position of the extreme points (the line of the apsides: perigee and apogee), makes a full circle (lunar precession) in about nine years. It takes the Moon longer to return to the same apsis because it moved ahead during one revolution. This longer period is called the anomalistic month, and has an average length of 27.554551 days (27 d 13 h 18 min 33.2 s). The apparent diameter of the Moon varies with this period, and therefore this type has some relevance for the prediction of eclipses (see Saros), whose extent, duration, and appearance (whether total or annular) depend on the exact apparent diameter of the Moon. The apparent diameter of the full moon varies with the full moon cycle which is the beat period of the synodic and anomalistic month, and also the period after which the apsides point to the Sun again.
Sometimes written ‘draconitic’ month, and also called the nodical month. The orbit of the moon lies in a plane that is tilted with respect to the plane of the ecliptic: it has an inclination of about five degrees. The line of intersection of these planes defines two points on the celestial sphere: the ascending node, when the moon’s path crosses the ecliptic as the moon moves into the northern hemisphere, and descending node when the moon’s path crosses the ecliptic as the moon moves into the southern hemisphere. The draconic or nodical month is the average interval between two successive transits of the moon through its ascending node. Because of the sun’s gravitational pull on the moon, the moon’s orbit gradually rotates westward on its axis, which means the nodes gradually rotate around the earth. As a result, the time it takes the moon to return to the same node is shorter than a sidereal month. It lasts 27.212220 days. The plane of the moon’s orbit precesses over a full circle in about 18.6 years.
Because the moon’s orbit is inclined with respect to the ecliptic, the sun, moon, and earth are in line only when the moon is at one of the nodes. Whenever this happens a solar or lunar eclipse is possible. The name “draconic” refers to a mythical dragon, said to live in the nodes and eat the sun or moon during an eclipse.
This is the average period of the Moon’s revolution with respect to the line joining the Sun and Earth. The synodic month is the period of the Moon’s phases, because the Moon’s appearance depends on the position of the Moon with respect to the Sun as seen from the Earth.
While the moon is orbiting the Earth, the Earth is progressing in its orbit around the Sun. After completing a sidereal month the Moon must move a little further to reach the new position having the same angular distance from the Sun. This longer period is called the synodic month.
Since the Earth’s orbit around the Sun is elliptical and not circular, the angular rate of Earth’s progression around the Sun varies during the year. The angular rate is faster nearer periapsis and slower near apoapsis. The same is so for the Moon’s orbit around the Earth. Because of these variations in angular rate, the actual time between lunations may range from about 29.18 to about 29.93 days. The long-term average duration is 29.530589 days. The synodic month is used to calculate eclipse cycles.
Note: In this table, time is expressed in Ephemeris Time with days of 86,400 SI seconds. Y is years since the epoch (2000), expressed in Julian years of 365.25 days. For calendrical calculations, one would probably use days measured in the time scale of Universal Time, which follows the somewhat unpredictable rotation of the Earth, and progressively accumulates a difference with ephemeris time called ΔT.
At the simplest level, most well-known lunar calendars are based on the initial approximation that 2 lunations last 59 days: a 30 day full month followed by a 29 day hollow month — but this is only roughly accurate, and eventually needs correction by using larger cycles, or the equivalent of leap days. Exceptions are the calendars based on the Metonic cycle, like the calendar used in the Antikythera Mechanism about 2000 years ago, or the Hebrew calendar which was calculated very precisely over 1000 years ago, based on a lunation of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3⅓ seconds, which differs from modern calculations by only one day in 15000 years.
However, the synodic month does not fit easily into the year, which makes accurate, rule-based lunisolar calendars complicated. The most common solution to this problem is the Metonic cycle, which takes advantage of the fact that 235 lunations are approximately 19 tropical years. However, a Metonic calendar will drift against the seasons by about 1 day every 200 years.
The complexity required in an accurate lunisolar calendar may explain why solar calendars, with months which no longer relate to the phase of the Moon, but are based only on the motion of the Sun against the sky, have generally replaced lunar calendars for civil use in most societies.
The Hellenic calendars, the Hebrew Lunisolar calendar and the Islamic Lunar calendar started the month with the 1st appearance of the thin crescent of the new moon.
However, the motion of the Moon in its orbit is very complicated and its period isn’t constant. The date and time of this actual observation depends on the exact geographical longitude as well as latitude, atmospheric conditions, the visual acuity of the observers, etc. Therefore the beginning and lengths of months defined by observation cannot be accurately predicted.
While some like the Jewish Karaites still rely on actual moon observations, most people use the Gregorian solar calendar.
Like the Hindu calendar, the Khmer calendar consists of both a lunar calendar and a solar calendar.
The solar calendar is used more commonly than the lunar calendar. There are 12 months and the numbers of days follow the Julian and Gregorian calendar.
The lunar calendar contains 12 months, though, however, the eighth month is divided into 2 months in the calendar a few years ago making 13 months instead of 12 months.
The mean month length of the Gregorian calendar is 30.436875 days.
The famous mnemonic Thirty days hath September is the most common way of teaching the lengths of the months in the English-speaking world.
Also, note that the latter 10 months of the year form a pair of 31-30-31-30-31-day 5-month cycles.
The knuckles of the four fingers of one’s hand and the spaces between them can be used to remember the lengths of the months. By making a fist, each month will be listed as one proceeds across the hand. All months landing on a knuckle are 31 days long and those landing between them are not. When the knuckle of the index finger is reached, go back to the 1st knuckle (or over to the 1st knuckle on the other fist, held next to the first) and continue with August. This physical mnemonic has been taught to primary school students for many decades.
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Man in the Moon
The Man in the Moon refers to any of several pareidolic images of a human face, head or body that certain traditions recognise in the disc of the full moon. The images are actually composed of the dark areas of the lunar maria, or “seas” and the lighter highlands of the lunar surface. Various cultures recognise other examples of lunar pareidolia, such as the Moon rabbit.
In the Northern Hemisphere, one common Western perception of the face has it that the figure’s eyes are Mare Imbrium and Mare Serenitatis, its nose is Sinus Aestuum, and its open mouth is Mare Nubium and Mare Cognitum. An older European tradition sees a figure of a man carrying a wide burden (Mare Vaporum and Lacus Somniorum) on his back. He is sometimes seen as accompanied by a small dog (Mare Crisium).
Conventionalized illustrations of the Man in the Moon seen in Western art often show a very simple face in the full moon, or a human profile in the crescent moon, corresponding to no actual markings.
The Man in the Moon” can also refer to a mythological character said to live on or in the moon, but who isn’t necessarily represented by the markings on the face of the moon. An example is Yue-Laou, from Chinese tradition.
There are various explanations as to how there came to be a Man in the Moon.
A longstanding European tradition holds that the man was banished to the moon for some crime. Christian lore commonly held that he is the man caught gathering sticks on the sabbath and sentenced by God to death by stoning in the book of Numbers XV.32-36. Some Germanic cultures thought he was a man caught stealing from a neighbor’s hedgerow to repair his own. There is a Roman legend that he is a sheep-thief.
There is also a Talmudic tradition that the image of Jacob is engraved on the moon, although no such mention appears in the Torah.
In Norse mythology, Mxni is the male personification of the moon who crosses the sky in a horse and carriage. He is continually pursued by the Great Wolf Hati who catches him at Ragnarok. The name Mxni simply means “Moon”.
In Chinese mythology, the goddess Chang’e is stranded upon the moon after foolishly consuming a double dose of an immortality potion. She is accompanied by a small group of moon rabbits.
In Haida mythology, the figure represents a boy gathering wood, who was taken up from the earth as a punishment for disrespect.
In the English Middle Ages and renaissance, the moon was held to be the god of drunkards, and at least three London taverns were named “The Man in the Moone”.
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Colonization of the Moon
The colonization of the Moon is the proposed establishment of permanent human communities or robot industries on the Moon.
Recent indication that water might be present in noteworthy quantities at the lunar poles has renewed interest in the Moon. Polar colonies could also avoid the problem of long lunar nights – about 354 hours, a little more than two weeks – and take advantage of the sun continuously, at least during the local summer.
Permanent human habitation on a planetary body other than the Earth is one of science fiction’s most prevalent themes. As technology has advanced, and concerns about the future of humanity on Earth have increased, the argument that space colonization is an achievable and worthwhile goal has gained momentum. Because of its proximity to Earth, the Moon has been seen as the most obvious natural expansion after Earth.
In 1954, science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke proposed a lunar base of inflatable modules covered in lunar dust for insulation. A spaceship, assembled in low Earth orbit, would launch to the Moon, and astronauts would set up the igloo-like modules and an inflatable radio mast. Subsequent steps would include the establishment of a larger, permanent dome; an algae-based air purifier; a nuclear reactor for the provision of power; and electromagnetic cannons to launch cargo and fuel to interplanetary vessels in space.
In 1959, John S. Rinehart suggested that the safest design would be a structure that could “[float] in a stationary ocean of dust”, since there were, at the time this concept was outlined, theories that there could be mile-deep dust oceans on the Moon. The proposed design consisted of a half-cylinder with half-domes at both ends, with a micrometeoroid shield placed above the base.
Lunex Project was a US Air Force plan for a manned lunar landing prior to the Apollo Program in 1961. It envisaged a 21-airman underground Air Force base on the Moon by 1968 at a total cost of $7.5 billion.
As of 2006, Japan planned to have a Moon base in 2030.
As of 2007, Russia planned to have a Moon base in 2027–2032.
In 2007 Jim Burke of the International Space University in France said people should plan to preserve humanity’s culture in the event of a civilization-stopping asteroid impact with Earth. A Lunar Noah’s Ark was proposed. Subsequent planning may be taken up by the International Lunar Exploration Working Group.
In a January 2012 speech Newt Gingrich, Republican candidate for President, proposed a plan to build a U.S. moon colony by the year 2020.
In the decades following, interest in exploring the Moon faded considerably, and only a few dedicated enthusiasts supported a return. However, evidence of Lunar ice at the poles gathered by NASA’s Clementine and Lunar Prospector (1998) missions rekindled some discussion, as did the potential growth of a Chinese space program that contemplated its own mission to the Moon. Subsequent research suggested that there was far less ice present (if any) than had originally been thought, but that there may still be some usable deposits of hydrogen in other forms. However, in September 2009, the Chandrayaan probe, carrying an ISRO instrument, discovered that the Lunar regolith contains 0.1% water by weight, overturning theories that had stood for 40 years.
In 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush called for a plan to return manned missions to the Moon by 2020. Propelled by this new initiative, NASA issued a new long-range plan that includes building a base on the Moon as a staging point to Mars. This plan envisions a Lunar outpost at one of the moon’s poles by 2024 which, if well-sited, might be able to continually harness solar power; at the poles, temperature changes over the course of a Lunar day are also less extreme, and reserves of water and useful minerals may be found nearby. In addition, the European Space Agency has a plan for a permanently manned Lunar base by 2025. Russia has also announced similar plans to send a man to the moon by 2025 and establish a permanent base there several years later.
A Chinese space scientist has said that the People’s Republic of China could be capable of landing a human on the Moon by 2022, and Japan and India also have plans for a Lunar base by 2030. Neither of these plans involves permanent residents on the Moon. Instead they call for sortie missions, in some cases followed by extended expeditions to the Lunar base by rotating crew members, as is currently done for the International Space Station.
NASA’s LCROSS/LRO mission had been scheduled to launch in October 2008. The launch was delayed until the 18th of June 2009, resulting in LCROSS’s impact with the Moon at 11:30 UT on the 9th of October, 2009. The purpose is preparing for future Lunar exploration.
On September 24, 2009 NASA announced the discovery of water on the Moon. The discovery was made by three instruments on board Chandrayaan-1. These were the ISRO’s Moon Impact Probe, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) and Mini-Sar, belonging to NASA.
Placing a colony on a natural body would provide an ample source of material for construction and other uses in space, including shielding from cosmic radiation. The energy required to send objects from the Moon to space is much less than from Earth to space. This could allow the Moon to serve as a source of construction materials within cis-lunar space. Rockets launched from the Moon would require less locally produced propellant than rockets launched from Earth. Some proposals include using electric acceleration devices to propel objects off the Moon without building rockets. Others have proposed momentum exchange tethers (see below). Furthermore, the Moon does have some gravity, which experience to date indicates may be vital for fetal development and long-term human health. Whether the Moon’s gravity (roughly one 6th of Earth’s) is adequate for this purpose, however, is uncertain.
While a colony might be located anywhere, potential locations for a Lunar colony fall into three broad categories.
NASA chose to use a south-polar site for the Lunar outpost reference design in the Exploration Systems Architecture Study chapter on Lunar Architecture.
A 1994 bistatic radar experiment performed during the Clementine mission suggested the presence of water ice around the south pole. The Lunar Prospector spacecraft reported enhanced hydrogen abundances at the south pole and even more at the north pole, in 2008. On the other hand, results reported using the Arecibo radio telescope have been interpreted by some to indicate that the anomalous Clementine radar signatures aren’t indicative of ice, but surface roughness. This interpretation, however, isn’t universally agreed upon.
A potential limitation of the polar regions is that the inflow of solar wind can create an electrical charge on the leeward side of crater rims. The resulting voltage difference can affect electrical equipment, change surface chemistry, erode surfaces and levitate Lunar dust.
The Lunar equatorial regions are likely to have higher concentrations of helium-3 because the solar wind has a higher angle of incidence. They also enjoy an advantage in extra-Lunar traffic: The rotation advantage for launching material is slight due to the Moon’s slow rotation, but the corresponding orbit coincides with the ecliptic, nearly coincides with the Lunar orbit around Earth, and nearly coincides with the equatorial plane of Earth.
Several probes have landed in the Oceanus Procellarum area. There are many areas and features that could be subject to long-term study, such as the Reiner Gamma anomaly and the dark-floored Grimaldi crater.
The Lunar far side lacks direct communication with Earth, though a communication satellite at the L2 Lagrangian point, or a network of orbiting satellites, could enable communication between the far side of the Moon and Earth. The far side is also a good location for a large radio telescope because it is well shielded from the Earth. Due to the lack of atmosphere, the location is also suitable for an array of optical telescopes, similar to the Very Large Telescope in Chile. To date, there has been no ground exploration of the far side.
Scientists have estimated that the highest concentrations of helium-3 will be found in the maria on the far side, as well as near side areas containing concentrations of the titanium-based mineral ilmenite. On the near side the Earth and its magnetic field partially shields the surface from the solar wind during each orbit. But the far side is fully exposed, and thus should receive a somewhat greater proportion of the ion stream.
Related Sites for Colonization of the Moon
Robotic exploration of the Moon
The physical exploration of the Moon began when Luna 2, a space probe launched by the Soviet Union, made an impact on the surface of the Moon on September 14, 1959. Prior to that the only available means of exploration had been observation from Earth. The invention of the optical telescope brought about the 1st leap in the quality of lunar observations. Galileo Galilei is generally credited as the 1st person to use a telescope for astronomical purposes; having made his own telescope in 1609, the mountains and craters on the lunar surface were among his 1st observations using it.
In 1969, NASA’s Project Apollo 1st successfully landed humans on the Moon. They placed scientific instruments there and returned lunar samples to Earth.
In Mesopotamia, Babylonian astronomers by the early 1st millennium BC had discovered a repeating 18-year cycle of lunar eclipses. They had also known by this time that 19 solar years is about equal to 235 lunar months. In the 2nd century BC, Seleucus of Seleucia correctly theorized that tides were caused by the Moon, although he believed that the interaction was mediated by the Earth’s atmosphere. According to Strabo, Seleucus was the 1st to state that the tides are due to the attraction of the Moon, and that the height of the tides depends on the Moon’s position relative to the Sun.
By the mid-first millennium BC, Indian astronomers described the Moon’s monthly elongation in the Aitareya Brāhmana. By 499 AD, the Indian astronomer Aryabhata mentioned in his Aryabhatiya that reflected sunlight is the cause behind the shining of the moon.
The ancient Greek philosopher Anaxagoras reasoned that the Sun and Moon were both giant spherical rocks, and that the latter reflected the light of the former. His atheistic view of the heavens was one cause for his imprisonment and eventual exile. In Aristotle’s (384–322 BC) description of the universe, the Moon marked the boundary between the spheres of the mutable elements (earth, water, air and fire), and the imperishable stars of aether. This separation was held to be part of Aristotelian physics for many centuries after. In the philosophy of Aristotle, the heavens, starting at the Moon, were the realm of perfection, the sublunary region was the realm of change and corruption, and any resemblance between these regions was strictly ruled out. Aristotle himself suggested that the Moon partook perhaps of some contamination from the realm of corruption. In his little book On the Face in the Moon’s Orb, Plutarch expressed rather different views on the relationship between the Moon and Earth. He suggested that the Moon had deep recesses in which the light of the Sun didn’t reach and that the spots are nothing but the shadows of rivers or deep chasms. He also entertained the possibility that the Moon was inhabited. It had been suggested already in antiquity that the Moon was a perfect mirror and that its markings were reflections of earthly features, but this explanation was easily dismissed because the face of the Moon never changes as it moves about the Earth. The explanation that finally became standard was that there were variations of “density” in the Moon that caused this otherwise perfectly spherical body to appear the way it does. The perfection of the Moon, and therefore the heavens, was thus preserved. Aristarchus went a step further and computed the distance from Earth, together with its size, obtaining a value of 20 times the Earth radius for the distance (the real value is 60; the Earth radius was roughly known since Eratosthenes).
During the Warring States of China, astronomer Shi Shen gave instructions for predicting solar and lunar eclipses based on the relative positions of the Moon and Sun. Although the Chinese of the Han Dynasty (202 BC–202 AD) believed the Moon to be energy equated to qi, their ‘radiating influence’ theory recognized that the light of the Moon was merely a reflection of the Sun (mentioned by Anaxagoras above). This was supported by mainstream thinkers such as Jing Fang (78–37 BC) and Zhang Heng (78–139 AD), but it was also opposed by the influential philosopher Wang Chong (27–97 AD). Jing Fang noted the sphericity of the Moon, while Zhang Heng accurately described a lunar eclipse and solar eclipse. These assertions were supported by Shen Kuo (1031–1095) of the Song Dynasty (960–1279) who created an allegory equating the waxing and waning of the Moon to a round ball of reflective silver that, when doused with white powder and viewed from the side, would appear to be a crescent. He also noted that the reason for the Sun and Moon not eclipsing every time their paths met was because of a small obliquity in their orbital paths.
By the Middle Ages, before the invention of the telescope, an increasing number of people began to recognise the Moon as a sphere, though many believed that it was “perfectly smooth”. In 1609, Galileo Galilei drew one of the 1st telescopic drawings of the Moon in his book Sidereus Nuncius and noted that it wasn’t smooth but had mountains and craters. Later in the 17th century, Giovanni Battista Riccioli and Francesco Maria Grimaldi drew a map of the Moon and gave many craters the names they still have today. On maps, the dark parts of the Moon’s surface were called maria or seas, and the light parts were called terrae or continents.
The medieval followers of Aristotle, in the Islamic world and then in Christian Europe, tried to make sense of the lunar spots in Aristotelian terms. Thomas Harriot, as well as Galilei, drew the 1st telescopic representation of the Moon and observed it for several years. His drawings, however, remained unpublished. The 1st map of the Moon was made by the Belgian cosmographer and astronomer Michael Florent van Langren in 1645. Two years later a much more influential effort was published by Johannes Hevelius. In 1647 Hevelius published Selenographia, the 1st treatise entirely devoted to the Moon. Hevelius’s nomenclature, although used in Protestant countries until the eighteenth century, was replaced by the system published in 1651 by the Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli, who gave the large naked-eye spots the names of seas and the telescopic spots the name of philosophers and astronomers. In 1753 the Croatian Jesuit and astronomer Roger Joseph Boscovich discovered the absence of atmosphere on the Moon. In 1824 Franz von Gruithuisen explained the formation of craters as a result of meteorite strikes.
The possibility that the Moon contains vegetation and is inhabited by selenites was seriously considered by major astronomers even into the 1st decades of the 19th century. The contrast between the brighter highlands and darker maria create the patterns seen by different cultures as the Man in the Moon, the rabbit and the buffalo, among others. In 1835, the Great Moon Hoax fooled some people into thinking that there were exotic animals living on the Moon. Almost at the same time however, Wilhelm Beer and Johann Heinrich Mxdler were publishing their four-volume Mappa Selenographica and the book Der Mond in 1837, which firmly established the conclusion that the Moon has no bodies of water nor any appreciable atmosphere.
The Cold War-inspired “space race” and “moon race” between the Soviet Union and the United States of America accelerated with a focus on the Moon. This included many scientifically important firsts, such as the 1st photographs of the then-unseen far side of the Moon in 1959 by the Soviet Union, and culminated with the landing of the 1st humans on the Moon in 1969, widely seen around the world as one of the pivotal events of the 20th century, and indeed of human history in general.
First, I believe that the nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space.”
The Soviets nonetheless remained in the lead for some time. Luna 9 was the 1st probe to soft land on the Moon and transmit pictures from the Lunar surface on February 3, 1966. It was proven that a lunar lander would not sink into a thick layer of dust, as had been feared. The 1st artificial satellite of the Moon was the Soviet probe Luna 10.
On December 24, 1968, the crew of Apollo 8, Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders, became the 1st human beings to enter lunar orbit and see the far side of the Moon in person. Humans 1st landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969. The 1st man to walk on the lunar surface was Neil Armstrong, commander of the U.S. mission Apollo 11. The 1st robot lunar rover to land on the Moon was the Soviet vessel Lunokhod 1 on November 17, 1970 as part of the Lunokhod program. To date, the last man to stand on the Moon was Eugene Cernan, who as part of the mission Apollo 17 walked on the Moon in December 1972. See also: A full list of lunar Apollo astronauts.
From the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s there were 65 Moon landings, but after Luna 24 in 1976 they suddenly stopped. The Soviet Union started focusing on Venus and space stations and the U.S. on Mars and beyond, on Skylab and Space Shuttle programs.
Before the moon race the US had pre-projects for scientific and military moonbases: the Lunex Project and Project Horizon. Besides manned landings, the abandoned Soviet moon program included the building of a multipurpose moonbase “Zvezda”, the 1st detailed project, complete with developed mockups of expedition vehicles and surface modules.
In 1990 Japan visited the Moon with the Hiten spacecraft, becoming the 3rd country to place an object in orbit around the Moon. The spacecraft released the Hagoromo probe into lunar orbit, but the transmitter failed, thereby preventing further scientific use of the mission. In September 2007, Japan launched the SELENE spacecraft, with the objectives “to obtain scientific data of the lunar origin and evolution and to develop the technology for the future lunar exploration”, according to the JAXA official website.
The European Space Agency launched a small, low-cost lunar orbital probe called SMART 1 on September 27, 2003. SMART 1′s primary goal was to take three-dimensional X-ray and infrared imagery of the lunar surface. SMART 1 entered lunar orbit on November 15, 2004 and continued to make observations until September 3, 2006, when it was intentionally crashed into the lunar surface in order to study the impact plume.
The People’s Republic of China has begun the Chang’e program for exploring the Moon and is investigating the prospect of lunar mining, specifically looking for the isotope helium-3 for use as an energy source on Earth. China launched the Chang’e 1 robotic lunar orbiter on October 24, 2007. Originally planned for a one-year mission, the Chang’e 1 mission was very successful and ended up being extended for another four months. On March 1, 2009, Chang’e 1 was intentionally impacted on the lunar surface completing the 16 month mission. On October 1, 2010, China launched the Chang’e 2 lunar orbiter.
The BMDO and NASA launched the Clementine mission in 1994, and Lunar Prospector in 1998. NASA launched the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, on June 18, 2009, which has collected imagery of the Moon’s surface. It also carried the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, which investigated the possible existence of water in Cabeus crater. GRAIL is another mission, launched in 2011.
Following the abandoned US Constellation program, plans for manned flights followed by moonbases were declared by Russia, Europe, China, Japan and India. All of them intend to continue the exploration of Moon with more unmanned spacecraft.
Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency plans a manned lunar landing around 2020 that would lead to a manned lunar base by 2030; however, there is no budget yet for this project and plan reverts to robotic missions.
In August 2007, NASA stated that all future missions and explorations of the Moon will be done entirely using the metric system. This was done to improve cooperation with space agencies of other countries which already use the metric system.
The European Space Agency has also announced its intention to send a manned mission to the Moon, as part of the Aurora programme. In September 2010 the agency introduced a “Lunar lander” programme with a target of autonomous mission to the moon in 2018.
On September 13, 2007, the X Prize Foundation, in concert with Google, Inc., announced the Google Lunar X Prize. This contest requires competitors “to land a privately funded robotic rover on the Moon that is capable of completing several mission objectives, including roaming the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and sending video, images and data back to the Earth.”