Once in a Blue Moon…

Posted by: Aamir

Feb 20th, 2007 • Category: Eye CandyTags: ,

The Moon has fascinated mankind throughout the ages. It is the only natural satellite of Earth: Called Luna by the Romans, Selene and Artemis by the Greeks, and many other names in other mythologies. Due to its size and composition, the Moon is sometimes classified as a terrestrial “planet” along with Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. The Moon is spherical in shape, is not self-luminous, but rather reflects the light of the distant Sun and circles the Earth once per month. It has no atmosphere, the sky always appears dark, even on the bright side.

Waxing Crescent Moon

The Moon always shows us the same face everyday and this is why the features on the moon never change. Since both the Earth and Moon are rotating and orbiting, how can this be possible? Long ago, the Earth’s gravitational effects slowed the Moon’s rotation about its axis. Once the Moon’s rotation slowed enough to match its orbital period (the time it takes the Moon to go around Earth) the effect stabilized. People often refer to “the dark side of the moon”, but there is no such thing. The sun shines on all sides of it in turn. However, there is a “far side of the moon” which is never seen from the earth.

Waning Gibbous Moon

So, does a blue moon really exist? Well, technically naww, the moon is never blue. When two full moons occur in any calendar month, the second is called a blue moon. The term (in its modern usage) therefore has nothing to do with the Moon’s actually color. Blue Moons occur once every 2.7 years, 7 times every 19 years, once every 33 months, 37 times every century and once every 33 full moons.. For e.g. it can occur in January and the following March if there is no full moon at all in February, as is the case in the years 1999, 2018, and 2037. However, the moon does occasionally appear blue as a result of smoke from forest fires or particles from a volcanic eruption. Since these blue-looking moons were rare but did happen from time to time, the phrase “once in a blue moon” was coined, meaning that an event is unusual, but can happen occasionally. Read more here… Blue Moon

Full MoonCrater Tycho visible at the bottom left with white lines radiating from it

Earthshine, of course, has nothing to do with moonshine (the alcoholic beverage). Earthshine is a phenomenon that occurs during the crescent moons when a thin crescent is brightly lit up and the remaining dark portion of the moon has a smoky glow and is faintly visible. This is caused by the sunlight shining on the earth and being reflected to the moon and lighting up the dark portion. This light is reflected back to earth, where we see it.

Read more here…
The Moon and Earthshine


Just after the new moon, the first crescent moon produces what we refer to as the “old moon” in the new moon’s arms. This occurs a few days after the new moon just after sunset. The same things happens to the old cresent moon in early morning. Seen below is the Earthshine phenomenon just before sunrise. I live very close to the foothills of the Calaveras mountains and this was the view overlooking my bedroom window early that morning.

Earthshine at twilight

Centuries ago, astronomers assumed that the dark patches on the moon were water bodies and hence called them the Seas by giving them fancy names. It was later discovered that the dark patches on the moon are not water bodies, but are flat layers created by basaltic lava. The picture below is a closeup of the moon showing the Sea of Tranquility in the center surrounded by the Sea of Crises and Sea of Fertility on the right, followed by Sea of Nectar at the bottom. To the bottom-left is the Crater Copernicus and the rocky Taurus mountain range above it. Detailed picture with markups

Closeup: Sea of Tranquility (Mare Tranquillitatis).Crater Copernicus visible at bottom left

The surface of the moon is scarred by millions of impact craters, caused by asteroids, comets, and meteorites. Some of these craters are hundreds of miles wide. These craters have not eroded much for two main reasons: The Moon is not geologically very active, so earthquakes and volcanoes don’t destroy the landscape as they do on Earth; and with virtually no atmosphere there is no wind or rain, so very little surface erosion occurs. This is why the craters on the moon remain unchanged for hundreds of years until another new impact changes them. Craters provide important clues into a planet’s past. Initially, scientists thought that the craters on the moon were due to gas bubbles coming out and blasting through the surface. Scientific advancements and improvements in digital imaging showed that the moon’s craters were due to impacts from meteors, comets and asteroids. Below is a picture of impact craters on the southern part of the moon.

Impact Craters on southern end of the moon

When i was a little kid, i assumed that the moon always rises after sunset and sets before sunrise everyday. In reality, the moon rises ~50 mins later each night as compared to the previous night. This means that over a period of one month, the moon rise would span during the day time and the nights.

Lunar Corona (no, it is not a kind of beer sold on the moon) is seen when thin clouds partially cover the moon. The water droplets or ice crystals contained in the clouds floating in the upper thermosphere cause the moonlight to diffract and create a halo or a circular rainbow ring around the moon. This effect is mostly seen with the full moons or brighter phases of the moon. As the clouds move or the density of ice crystals changes, the intensity and shape of the halo changes too.

Lunar Corona

Tides on Earth are caused mostly by the Moon. The Moon’s gravity pulls on Earth’s oceans. High tide aligns with the Moon as Earth spins underneath. Another high tide occurs on the opposite side of the planet because gravity pulls Earth toward the Moon more than it pulls the water. At full Moon and new Moon, the Sun, Earth and Moon are lined up, producing the higher than normal tides (called spring tides, for the way they spring up). When the Moon is at first or last quarter, smaller neap tides form. All this tugging has another interesting effect: Some of Earth’s rotational energy is stolen by the Moon, causing our planet to slow down by about 1.5 milliseconds every century.

Composite image of a different type of Lunar Corona

A lunation is the cycle of the moon’s phases. From new moon to the next new moon is about 29 1/2 days (709 Hrs) or one lunation. This is how long it takes for the moon to complete one full orbit around the earth. During this period the Moon enters a series of phases, which changes the amount of light reflected off its surface and its visible shape to the naked eye from Earth. The picture below (source: Wikipedia) shows the different phases of the moon with respect to its position relative to the earth and the sun.

Lunar Phases
(Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia)

This post took me ~8 months to complete and it was quite challenging. I was unable to finish the complete moon series in one straight month due to the different moon rise and setting times. It is very hard to shoot the first day or the 28th day moon as it is very thin and only appears faintly for like 10 mins during twilight. Lots of oppurtunities were missed as it was cloudy some nights, some days the moon rose during the day and other times i was just tired and slept through it. These missed oppurtunites caused a break in the sequence and i had to wait one more month in order to get the lunar phase i missed. I had to wake up and sleep at weird times just to get the moon rise picture. Finally i managed to complete the whole series. The picture below is a composite image i created in photoshop. I took pictures of different phases of the moon and arranged them to create this sequence. This image took me a long time to pull it through, but i am glad it turned out to be allright in the end.

A composite image of the Lunar Phases

Can you believe land on the moon is already available for sale? Wish to buy Real estate on the Moon?
The Moon Shop
Lunar Embassy
Authorized Lunar Land Owner
[+] Caution: You are on your own with the above links. Use your discretion

Here is a photo which i took during a perfectly clear, moonless night from my balcony. Can you spot the Belt of Orion? Constellations are fun to observe, provided you are good at the game of connecting the dots. Hint: Orion’s Belt” (Look for three bright stars in a row)

Beneath the Starry Sky…

More about constellations here…
Constellation Guide
The Constellation Page
Sky Maps and Star Charts

Colors of the Moon
As quoted here. Is the moon really this colorful? In a way, yes. The lunar surface actually does have quite a bit of color, although in reality it is very subtle. In this photograph, the color saturation has been enhanced to bring out the differences in the colors of the various areas of the surface. The hues are correct, just much more vivid than we usually see them. Aside from making an interesting aesthetic presentation, the colors also give clues as to the mineralogy of the moon’s surface. Also, at the sites of many impact craters we can see that deeper material exposed (and in some cases scattered) by the impact is of a different composition than the material on the surface.

Colors of the moon. Are they real?
(Picture Courtesy: Russell Cromann Astrophotography)

Explanation from NASA: Astronomical Picture of the Day:Earth’s Moon is normally seen in subtle shades of grey or yellow. But small color differences have been greatly exaggerated to make this dramatic mosaic image of the Moon’s gibbous phase. The familiar Sea of Tranquility (Mare Tranquillitatis) is the blue area right of center. White lines radiate from the crater Tycho at bottom left, while purplish tones mottle the crater Copernicus left of center.

Now, i dont own a telescope (I really wish i had one). All the pictures shown above are tight crops of pictures taken with my 100-400mm lens. I wish i had a teleconverter to increase my focal length, but that will be my next project… AstroPhotography. This post has sparked a deep interest in astronomy and i will try to pursue it further given the time i have. Let me know if you are interested in the EXIF information for these images. I will be happy to share it with you.

Yon rising Moon that looks for us again—
How oft hereafter will she wax and wane;
How oft hereafter rising look for us
Through this same Garden—
and for one in vain!

— Omar Khayyám, Rubáiyát #100


Posted by: Aamir

Feb 20th, 2007 • Category: Eye CandyTags: ,
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  1. starry nights
    February 20th, 2007 at 17:49:


    Ari you touched on a subject close to my heart. I loved all the pictures and the different faces of the moon. I watch the discovery channel a lot and am always intrigued about the moon and the sun and the stars.Thank you for sharing all this info and pictures.I loved the picture of the moon against the orange sky.it was just too beautiful.And there actually is a blue moon?

  2. Arz000n
    February 20th, 2007 at 19:30:


    Im sure whoeva was the first guy who stepped on planet….afta he came back to earth and wrote his thesis on moon would not have written this much for sure

    And nice detailed snaps in here….from where did you get it??
    Google Earth’s cracked version??

    To be frank….moon looks kewl from a distance…I dont wanna eva step on it though…looks kinda ugly….like the pudding in ma fridge for god knows how long 🙂

    Thanks for sharing so much of info about this planet..

  3. samuru999
    February 20th, 2007 at 19:36:


    Ari, this is such a beautiful post!
    I am spellbound!
    Thanks for sharing all the wonder of the moon…such amazing pictures!
    How I would love to travel to the moon!

    I am just heading off to work, so will have to come back later and enjoy at my heart’s content!
    Oh, it was so nice to have you stop by for a visit today….I sure have missed you!
    Sending hugs back to you!
    Have a great day Ari….and take care!


  4. Zeekat
    February 20th, 2007 at 19:40:


    Really love these shot’s of the moon, they are so sharp…really great!!

  5. Arz000n
    February 20th, 2007 at 19:47:


    Sweeet Moses!!

    Which lens / Binocular / camera / Digital SLR / telescope / microscope are you using to click these snaps??

    They are amazing….do one thing, sell em to NASA 😉

    or you working for NASA itself??
    Jeeezz…Ive made fun of those guys…multiple times infact…hehehehe

  6. Arz000n
    February 20th, 2007 at 20:05:


    Thats why I prefer not to open ma mouth at places many times…coz then people come to know how lazy I am 😛

    To be frank..too much of knowledge is kinda harmful for ma tiny brain…I tend to faint while reading at times..you dont know how bad it is, especially when you are sitting at the edge of the bed and wake up afta an hour beneath your coffee table 😛

    Your Full Moon looks like something wrapped in a plastic…hehehe…nice n rare snap

    and yes, I too used to think about the same tht mooon rises afta sunset till like age of 17..but then ma friend told me coz of earths continuos movement, we tend to miss seeing moon during day time as its hidden by hills n mountains…which I readily agreed 🙂

    PS: Dont throw stapler at me for not reading the post 🙁

  7. Zeekat
    February 20th, 2007 at 20:13:


    I will check out the link you send me, thanks


  8. dumbdodi
    February 20th, 2007 at 20:22:



    How is my favourite shutter man in the world doing???I am fine…just getting back to blogging…missed ya

    BTW like everyone I love moon. Perfect with its imperfections. Sad when you are sad, happy when you are happy….good company when you are waiting for someone…..its so many things

  9. mystic rose
    February 20th, 2007 at 23:15:


    you sure have a happy blog…:)

    beautiful pics of the moon..

  10. mystic rose
    February 20th, 2007 at 23:16:


    And all those names sound so enchanting, almost liek a fairy tale and then youre ad about it and relaise its just a cold cold stark dead world..:)
    but a beautifful illusion never the less.

  11. Joel Reynolds
    February 21st, 2007 at 03:00:


    Wow, man. Great shots and info. The last shot is amazing – such great colours.

  12. Keshi
    February 21st, 2007 at 04:42:


    great info here Ari. once in a blue moon, I dun miss ya 😉


  13. Ash
    February 21st, 2007 at 05:36:


    Lovely images and information!
    Thanks for sharing…

  14. Naina
    February 21st, 2007 at 06:00:



    These pics are like wow! Astrophotography….seems like an awesome thing ! Did you take those pics?

  15. kalyan
    February 21st, 2007 at 07:35:


    Now thats amazing…it was really breathtaking looking at all your shots. When i reached the last shot, I was wondering whether there can be anything more after that…along with the beautiful research and commentary…EXCELLENT work!

  16. Navin Harish
    February 21st, 2007 at 11:23:


    Wow! This is some great information about the moon

  17. priya
    February 22nd, 2007 at 20:25:


    Ari: You just bring all beautiful thing here and make us feel happy. Just amzing to watch these pictures and wat a feeling.. I felt as if I am walking or staying close to moon observing all those colors.

  18. Mystic Rose
    February 23rd, 2007 at 00:00:


    Hi Ari,
    thanks for letting me know about my profile. I corrected it.

  19. Arz000n
    February 24th, 2007 at 11:29:


    What you planning to put up afta once in a blue moon??

    I’m curious and waiting with ma loaded stapler 😛

  20. Suji
    February 25th, 2007 at 06:06:


    WOW!!! Awesome pics and very informative. The amount of effort you have put in is amazing. The pic of the lunar cycle u have made is really priceless.

  21. Corinne
    February 25th, 2007 at 09:37:


    Ari you’ve outdone yourself! I am envious of your abilities to capture such sharp images. Stunning work!

  22. Laurent
    February 25th, 2007 at 10:56:


    All pour moon pictures are really cute. I would like to do same thing because i like moon too. U must have big material for doing this. Thanks for the eyes.
    Have a good sunday.

  23. Perspective Inc.
    February 27th, 2007 at 04:09:


    stunning pictures!! and a super informative post!

  24. mi foto
    February 27th, 2007 at 17:40:


    Photos you magnify of the lunar landscape, is a very good series and blog very pretty. Greetings of spain.

  25. Drama Div@
    February 28th, 2007 at 09:39:


    the Moon from a distant view looked quite nice… love the earthshine at twilight pic 😀


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