Five Popular Myths About the Moon Busted by Scientists

The Moon is subject to a lot of mystification. Here are five of those myths that were busted by scientists.

Scientists busted five popular myths about the Moon

The supermoon is an illusion

The term is astrological in origin but has no precise astronomical definition. Also called a full moon or a new moon, the Moon becomes that impressive red giant because it nearly coincides with perigee. It also has a technical name: the perigee-syzygy.

Perigee is the point at which the Moon is closest in its orbit to the Earth, and syzygy is when the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun are aligned, which happens at every full or new Moon. The term supermoon is attributed to astrologer Richard Nolle. Nolle described any lunation closer than 368,630 kilometers to be a Supermoon.

A full moon at perigee appears 14% larger in diameter than at apogee. For the observers insisting that the Moon looks bigger to them, note this: shortly after sunset, the Moon is near the horizon, and the moon illusion is at its most apparent.

The dark side of the Moon is a misnomer

The Moon is Earth’s satellite. Its rotation is tidally locked by Earth’s gravity. Therefore, most of the same lunar side always faces Earth. It is not dark. The accurate definition would be the far side of the Moon.

Both sides of the Moon experience two weeks of sunlight, followed by two weeks of night. The far side of the Moon is wrongfully called the dark side of the Moon.

Earth’s shadow is not responsible for the Moon phases

The lunar phase or phase of the Moon is the shape of the directly sunlit portion of the Moon as viewed from Earth.

The lunar phases gradually for about 29.53 days. The phases are changing due to the shifting orbital positions of the Moon around Earth and Earth around the Sun. Except for the lunar eclipse when the Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow, neither of the Moon phases is caused b the Earth’s shadow over the Moon.

The Moon doesn’t move differently in the southern hemisphere

Well, it might look like the Moon moves from right to left in the southern hemisphere, while it moves from left to right in the northern hemisphere. It’s not that. It’s just that the Earth is, you know? Round. The viewpoint on the Moon turns upside down.

The southern celestial hemisphere is the south half of the celestial sphere. It lies south of the celestial equator. This arbitrary sphere, on which seemingly fixed stars form constellations, appears to rotate westward around a polar axis due to Earth’s rotation.

The Moon’s crescent doesn’t always face the Sun

The reason we don’t always see the Moon’s curved crescent pointing towards the location of the Sun is because of the Moon’s tilt illusion. The Moon’s tilt illusion is caused by the discrepancy between the direction of the light illuminating the Moon and the direction of the Sun.

We expect a light ray between Sun and Moon to appear as a line of constant slope. This expectation does not correspond to reality—the observed slope of a straight line in three-dimensional space changes according to the direction of observation.

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