WootBot


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Last month, Neil Armstrong died at age 82. One of the best test pilots of his generation, Armstrong thought that his chances to be an aviation pioneer had passed him by in 1947 when his future colleague Chuck Yeager became the first human to fly faster than speed of sound. That all changed when he entered the space program, of course, and in 1969, Armstrong made history when he became the first man to walk on the moon. (If that doesn’t ring a bell to you kids, just picture the astronaut on the MTV Video Music Award.) The day of his August 31 memorial service was, appropriately enough, a “blue moon”—the second full moon in the same month, an astronomical oddity that won’t happen again until 2015. In honor of Neil Armstrong and the Apollo astronauts, we’ve asked Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings to run down some common misconceptions that lots of people still believe about the moon. Did you know it’s not even made out of green cheese? Science ruins everything.

Moon Myth #1: I’ll See You on the Dark Side of the Moon.

It should be obvious that, indeed, one half of the Moon is always lit by the Sun, and one half is dark. But, despite the impression you may have gotten from bad science-fiction movies and prog-rock albums, it’s not always the same side...



The phrase “the dark side of the Moon” became cemented in the public mind during the years of the Apollo space program, and helped inspire Pink Floyd’s top-selling album. But it’s a little misleading. NASA used the term colloquially to refer to the far side of the Moon—that is, the side that always faces away from the Earth. (In a millennia-long process called “tidal locking,” the Earth has gradually altered the Moon’s orbit so that it rotates on its axis exactly as often as it rotates around the Earth, every 27.3 days, so we always see the exact same lunar features from Earth.) But that far side isn’t dark at all—it gets exactly as much sunlight as the hemisphere we see. It’s just “dark” in radio parlance—that is, transmitters on Earth couldn’t reach it and vice versa.

So there’s no truth to the popular idea of a mysterious, unlit half of the Moon’s surface where anything (aliens, Transformers, General Zod from Superman II) could be lurking unseen in the darkness. The far side of the Moon was a mystery until the Space Age, but Soviet probes began photographing it in 1959, and its features were pretty well mapped by 1968, when the first human beings—the crew of Apollo 8—set eyes on the surface. They later told science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke that they’d been tempted to radio back a description of large black 2001 monolith on the back of the moon, but finally decided against it, thus ruining what would have been the best prank in American history.

Quick Quiz: The first two singles on Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon had titles that were synonyms—according to Ben Franklin, anyway. What were the songs called?

Ken Jennings is the author of Brainiac, Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac, and Maphead. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at ken-jennings.com or on Twitter as @KenJennings.

cygnwulf


quality posts: 0 Private Messages cygnwulf

What are Time and Money?

alexander5245


quality posts: 2 Private Messages alexander5245

The near side of the moon is actually a little darker than the far side. First, it has the maria ("seas") which have a darker color. Second, during a lunar eclipse, the Earth stops light from reaching the near side, whereas the far side never is eclipsed. So the near side gets slightly less sunlight over time than the far side.

Snard


quality posts: 0 Private Messages Snard

I debunk the debunker!!

Many people consider a "blue moon" to be the 2nd full moon in a calendar month, but that's not the traditional (and original) definition. It was originally defined to be the 3rd full moon in a calendar season which has 4 full moons. It turns out that August 31 was a "blue moon" by both definitions, however.

Refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_moon for a more detailed discussion.

seinjunkie


quality posts: 1 Private Messages seinjunkie

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "Munchkin Land"

dcobranchi


quality posts: 0 Private Messages dcobranchi

Time = Money

Snard


quality posts: 0 Private Messages Snard
alexander5245 wrote:The near side of the moon is actually a little darker than the far side. First, it has the maria ("seas") which have a darker color. Second, during a lunar eclipse, the Earth stops light from reaching the near side, whereas the far side never is eclipsed. So the near side gets slightly less sunlight over time than the far side.



I wonder if the reflected "earth light" brightens the surface of the moon very much. If it does, then you could argue that the "facing side" of the moon is brighter.

effarig


quality posts: 0 Private Messages effarig

There may not be a dark side to the moon but there are permanently dark areas on the moon's surface. Craters near the poles are permanently dark and hover just a few degrees above absolute zero.

blogs.airspacemag.com/moon/2010/12/new-light-on-the-lunar-poles/

dankmd


quality posts: 0 Private Messages dankmd

Dark in this sense has to do with knowledge. It is not referring to sunlight or color. We knew little to nothing about the far side of the moon until 1959. We were 'in-the-dark' about it.
As another example, the term 'Dark Africa' was used when the continent's interior was mainly unexplored by Europeans.

Jefiner


quality posts: 4 Private Messages Jefiner

"There is no dark side of the moon. As a matter of fact, it's all dark."

"Eclipse" The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.

/jest sayin.

dontwantaname


quality posts: 13 Private Messages dontwantaname

Volunteer Moderator

Jefiner wrote:"There is no dark side of the moon. As a matter of fact, it's all dark."

"Eclipse" The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.

/jest sayin.




I wonder how many of us thought that as soon as we read the topic?

WE LURV YOU TOO! Dork!!!
No greater love is lost than that not shared.

nowthatiscool


quality posts: 0 Private Messages nowthatiscool

So, what are Moon Myths numbers 2, 3, etc?

whoiskenjennings


quality posts: 7 Private Messages whoiskenjennings

Guest Blogger

"Time" and "Money" are correct. Very nice, cygnwulf. You have control of the board.

That's cool about the original definition of "blue moon." Did not know that.

whoiskenjennings


quality posts: 7 Private Messages whoiskenjennings

Guest Blogger

dankmd wrote:Dark in this sense has to do with knowledge.



That's plausible, but I actually believe the "radio-dark" story instead for one reason: text searches show that references to "dark side of the moon" are almost unheard of pre-Sputnik, but the phrase became colloquial very quickly during the Gemini and Apollo era (but before the Pink Floyd record). If "dark side of the moon" always just meant "the unknown side," you'd think it would have caught on decades or centuries earlier, the way "Darkest Africa" did.

cengland0


quality posts: 11 Private Messages cengland0

Reminds me of a Farside cartoon. I love these.

chipgreen


quality posts: 179 Private Messages chipgreen
dontwantaname wrote:I wonder how many of us thought that as soon as we read the topic?



+1

maxrfb


quality posts: 8 Private Messages maxrfb
nowthatiscool wrote:So, what are Moon Myths numbers 2, 3, etc?



#2 The moon is not made of green cheese.
#3 There is no actual "man" in the moon.

wow. I actually bought a Robot Elvis.
What was I thinking?

LarryLars


quality posts: 65 Private Messages LarryLars

How long does the moon stay full?


!

Have you checked your Private Messages lately?

cengland0


quality posts: 11 Private Messages cengland0
LarryLars wrote:How long does the moon stay full?



I've wondered something about that too. If you see a full moon wherever you are, someone on the other side of the earth cannot possibly see a full moon at the same time.

So, when you see charts that say when the next full moon will be, is that geographically dependent?

DaLemming


quality posts: 7 Private Messages DaLemming
dontwantaname wrote:I wonder how many of us thought that as soon as we read the topic?



+1

This debunking could have saved Heinz Doofenshmirtz all that trouble in Doof Side of the Moon.

dontwantaname


quality posts: 13 Private Messages dontwantaname

Volunteer Moderator

Quick Quiz: The first two singles on Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon had titles that were synonyms—according to Ben Franklin, anyway. What were the songs called?

The joy of google!

Money and Time

Do I need to google to see if Ben Franklin said Time is money?
Guess I will.
I did.
Yes. Ben is the first to say time is money.

WE LURV YOU TOO! Dork!!!
No greater love is lost than that not shared.