I was up early this morning (about 5:30 a.m.) and while I was making some tea, I glanced out the window and saw a lovely waning crescent Moon. It was somewhat low in the southeast sky and just glowed like a fractured jewel.
Have you ever noticed the Moon during the day? Most people think of the Moon only gracing the evening sky. Oftentimes movies or book illustrations show either a Full Moon or some variation of crescent Moon against a starry or dark backdrop. But, during a part of its monthly cycle, the Moon is visible during the day. If you don’t believe me, start looking for the Moon each night or day and make a note of where and when you see it in the sky. Do this for a couple of months and you’ll see a pattern to its appearances.
When I was in high school the Apollo astronauts landed on the Moon. Of course we couldn’t see the action from our backyards, but many of us did gather around the television and watch as those first steps were taken onto the lunar surface. In these days of instantaneous coverage of distant events, this doesn’t seem very spectacular. But back then, it was pretty amazing technology. We all grew up thinking we’d be living on the Moon in our adulthood. Although that hasn’t happened yet, we can still gaze at the Moon and wonder about what it would be like to live there. Science fiction readers already know: we’d be living underground in carefully constructed and protected air-tight cities. Oh, we might have a few observation screens to look out on the surface, but the safer way to exist on the Moon is underground.
A few entries back I mentioned Hermann Oberth, the great German rocket scientist, and his idea for an orbiting space telescope. He also came up with an idea to put observatories on the Moon — away from Earth’s atmosphere and in near-perfect vacuum. That idea hasn’t exactly died out, and I have no doubt that someday astronomers will live and work on the Moon. Or, if that idea doesn’t suit an observer, he or she will be able to simply “log in” to the lunar observatory for their given observing run from the comfort of an Earth-based location. That’s how a lot of them do it now — using HST or an observatory halfway around the world (or around the block) but watching the action from outside the observatory.
Still, there’s some romantic adventure in going off to do your observing in some distant land, so I imagine there will be folks who will want to go to the Moon for their work. Now all we have to do is get back there!