Night Vision: Earth’s Moon

Nick Jarvis

In this week’s Night Vision, we’ll be exploring our near and dear neighbor; our committed partner, with whom we’ve do-se-do-ed our way through the heavens for a couple billion years now. From the its fiery and explosive history in the early solar system, to the latest science regarding its nature and composition, we’ll visit our magnificent Moon, including immersive 360-degree panoramas that are best experienced in a full-dome theater.

On a more human note, the Moon also deserves our love and admiration because it can profoundly affect us in terms of cognition and philosophy. No, I’m not talking about astrology; no, I’m not talking about lycanthropy; no, I’m not talking about “Blood-Moons.” I’m talking about inspiration. From generations of folklore and mythology, to Galileo’s sketches through the first crude telescopes, all the way to the age of rockets, astronauts, and robot explorers, the Moon has stood astride science and culture, and has profoundly affected both!

Before the telescope, many believed that the heavens, Moon, and stars were something separate, immutable, eternal, and completely distinct from the dirty roiling mess here in the terrestrial world. After the invention of the telescope in the early 1600s, the Moon helped us through a critical paradigm shift: Astronomers like Galileo realized the Moon had mountains, craters, and signs of dynamics and imperfections just like the rest of the “real” world, and later Newton realized that the same law of universal gravity that pulls apples out of trees also steers the Moon in its orbit around the Earth.

This paradigm shift was a key part of the scientific revolution, and so, in a slightly roundabout way, the comforts and riches we enjoy in our electrified, air-conditioned lives owe at least a little bit to the mere act of looking a the Moon and thinking really hard about what we see. Then, a few centuries later, that scientific revolution was able to send human explorers to touch the Moon itself, to look back at the Earth from a distance, and give us perhaps the best perspective on the Earth, of ourselves, that we had ever seen!

Left: A sketch of the Moon made by Galileo in 1610 from early telescopic observations. Right: "Earthrise," photographed in 1968 by Bill Anders while aboard Apollo 8.

Left: A sketch of the Moon made by Galileo in 1610 from early telescopic observations. Right: “Earthrise,” photographed in 1968 by Bill Anders while aboard Apollo 8. These two images are great examples of how our relationship with the Moon has dramatically changed the way we see the universe, and ourselves.

Please come join us as we explore the Moon and take in some science, some magnificent images, and maybe we’ll do a little howling as well.

Night Vision: Earth’s Moon is presented live by Nick Jarvis on Thursday evening, March 23rd, and Saturday evening, March 25th, in the Hansen Dome Theatre at 6:45pm. Tickets available online or at the Clark Planetarium ticket desk. Free for members.

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