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Astronomical question and answer 207


Frank L. Preuss


Can one see the moon next to the sun?


The sky is cloudless, but it is hazy and the calendar still says it is new moon.

The sun now stands in the west and is the centre of a gigantic sea of rays. The moon is obviously not before the sun, therefore does not cover the sun. I have thought about, whether one could see the moon, when it would be next to the sun. Here now a picture to this:


"Verlauf der Sonnenfinsternis am 1. August 2008 im Abstand von jeweils 3 min fotografiert, aufgenommen in Nowosibirsk"

"Course of the eclipse of the sun on August 1, 2008 in intervals of 3 minutes each photographed, taken in Novosibirsk"

A sun set and a moon set last each about 2 minutes or a little longer. Capturing the sun every 3 minutes on a picture should therefore result in a sun distance of about 1.5 times the sun diameter. That also seems to be the case on the picture. When the moon would be stationary or would cross the course of the sun, it would happen quite fast and would be seen on only 1 to 3 pictures, but the moon indeed goes with the sun, therefore is in the disk of sun for quite some time, according to this picture about 36 x 3 = 108 minutes.

The two courses of the two heavenly bodies actually really cross each other, but the angle between the two courses is relatively small, and as a result a longer time of superposition arises.

And the difference of the speed of the course is also very small.

Therefore the eclipse of the sun lasts more than an hour, but the actual new moon is very short, for the waning of the moon lasts, until shortly before that moment, where the two heavenly bodies are at the same point and immediately after that the moon starts to wax.

When one would not depict the course of the two heavenly bodies as individual circular discs or parts of circular discs, but as lines, then the line of the moon would be steeper than that of the sun. At the top left the moon is higher than the sun and at the bottom right it is deeper.

Therefore the moon does not seem to be seen at all, when it is next to the sun.

Only when it starts to touch the sun it seems to bring about something.

So I sit there and look into the sun, which is now already close to the horizon, and there is no trace of the moon, but I know it must be quite close.

I then thought about that the moon could also be above the sun, and I could see it then, after the sun has set. Because today is indeed also the day, where the earth shine upon the moon is the largest, but there was nothing. It even took quite a long time until the first star became visible.


This is the end of "Astronomical question and answer 207"
To the German version of this chapter: Astronomische Frage und Antwort 207



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