Bragging about its reflected glory


My painting of Supermoon

Although it is expected to be at its peak tonight, last night I spent sometime looking at supermoon. Known as a perigee full moon in astronomical terms, supermoon is at its closest to the Earth during this period. It looks about 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter.

Tonight the Moon expected to be 356,991 kilometers or 221,824 miles away from us, its closest this year. Barely two weeks later, that is on July 7, it will achieve its apogee at a distance of 406,490 kilometers or 252,581 miles. That is close to a difference of 50,000 kilometers (49,499 to be precise) or 30,757.3 miles. That’s a considerable variation and has a recognizable gravitational swing on the Earth.

The sky over Naperville was squeaky clean, giving supermoon an even sharper than normal periphery. It was so high resolution that it began to look fake after a while. It looked like Hollywood moon. You could have printed it straight off the sky at millions of DPI or dots per inches.

It was almost as if the Moon was bragging about its own resplendence which is rather ironic because as we all know well it is reflected glory. I suppose those who lead a life of reflected glory tend to flaunt it more.

It must be sobering for the Moon not to have its own intrinsic light. Not that the Earth is any different but at least its inhabitants have created some measurable luminosity. The Moon has none of its own. In that sense, the Moon that we see on a night like this or for that matter any other night is indeed Hollywood moon in that it is created by the way it is positioned in relation to the Sun and us.

Without the Sun the Moon is nothing more than a dusty, dark sphere. This is how NASA explains moondust: “Almost half is silicon dioxide glass created by meteoroids hitting the moon. These impacts, which have been going on for billions of years, fuse topsoil into glass and shatter the same into tiny pieces. Moondust is also rich in iron, calcium and magnesium bound up in minerals such as olivine and pyroxene. It’s nothing like gunpowder.”

The reference to gunpowder comes from the fact that astronauts who have smelled it say it smells like gunpowder. Why? NASA says, “No one knows.”

“To be clear, moondust and gunpowder are not the same thing. Modern smokeless gunpowder is a mixture of nitrocellulose (C6H8(NO2)2O5) and nitroglycerin (C3H5N3O9). These are flammable organic molecules "not found in lunar soil," says Gary Lofgren of the Lunar Sample Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Hold a match to moondust–nothing happens, at least, nothing explosive.”

My point, if there must be one to what I write, is that the glorious beauty of the Moon mostly comes out of the way the Sun lights it up. Like I said, it is Hollywood moon.


About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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