Friday, June 20, 2008

Celebrate the Solstice

Simply beautiful. Photo Credit & Copyright: Anthony Ayiomamitis

From NASA's Atronomy Picture of the Day
Today's solstice marks the northernmost point of the Sun's annual motion through planet Earth's sky and the astronomical beginning of the northern hemisphere's summer. But only two days ago, the Full Moon nearest the solstice rose close to the ecliptic plane opposite the Sun, near its southernmost point for the year. Astronomer Anthony Ayiomamitis recorded this dramatic picture of the solstice Full Moon rising above Cape Sounion, Greece. The twenty-four hundred year old Temple of Poseidon lies in the foreground, also visible to sailors on the Aegean Sea. In this well-planned single exposure, a telescopic lens makes the Moon loom large, but even without optical aid casual skygazers often find the Full Moon looking astonishingly large when seen near the horizon. That powerful visual effect is known as the Moon Illusion.
My most vivid memory of the moon illusion is from a serene summer evening in 1967. We lived in northern California, back during the days when kids still went out to play. And on pleasant summer nights, the thing we hated most was the sound of our mothers calling us in for the night. This particular night was different though... it was so balmy and bright, that even the parents seemed to be out in the neighborhood, chatting up their neighbors and futzing about with a highball glass in their hands (it was the 60's ya know). When the moon rose that evening, it hung on the horizon like a giant world about to crash to the earth. It looked so close I felt I could run to the end of the street and touch it. It was magical.

It happened 40 years ago and I can remember it like yesterday. I've never seen anything remotely close to it since. How about you guys? Any great moon stories?


kimber the wolfgrrrl said...

I grew up on a secluded beach, and one summer night, under a brilliant full moon, hundreds of waterfowl congregated on the sand flats. I went for a walk to the water's edge, and though I walked between them, around them, up to them, none of the birds would fly away because it was too dark -- instead, the countless ducks and murrets and gulls just sat on the sand, squawking at the moon. It was very surreal.

Happy solstice to you. :)

Ramona Quimby said...

About 5 years ago,in the dead of winter, my beloved (late) greyhound and I went for our usual 5:00 am walk (greyhounds are REALLY early risers). The bright full moon was still out, and Lindsay stopped dead in her tracks. In the light of the moon, we saw a gorgeous, enormous stag standing on the lawn across the street. (We lived near a wooded park, where deer sometimes hung out.) Took my breath away. Lindsay, being a greyhound, thought it was pretty cool, too. Luckily, she was on a lead.

Poopyman said...

Almost exactly your story, FLG. But in our neighborhood in the Pgh 'burbs we were allowed out until dark. Being a space addict, I watched for every full moon to rise beyond the shopping center across the valley (Burbs. Pgh. Told ya.) Big and yellow, it rose through the trees as the lightning bugs came out.

Being the 60's, there was also an undercurrent of the space race. Men were going to walk there soon. And there was a war on, a dark cloud in the background.

An astronomy degree, a stint at NASA, and I still love to watch the full moon rise, just as I paused tonight to watch the solstice sun set.

Poopyman said...

I forgot to mention that the name Anthony Ayiomamitis triggered a memory. He's the guy that did a whole series of photos of analemmas over Greek temples. Actually, he's done a lot of astrophotography, and can be found here.

four legs good said...

Oh, nice! thanks for the link.

I forgot to mention that something in the atmosphere that night (california pollution?) stained the moon an odd reddish color.

Thanks for everyone's stories.


Poopyman said...

You want something in the atmosphere? I was in Pgh, dangit! The moon was rising through the Mon Valley crud.

Very romantic, actually. Knowing where and when the moon is rising can come in very handy.