Has the moon ever shone more beautifully than this past week? Couple of nights ago we indulged in our favorite two-hour vacation. Left the dogs behind (sorry, dogs) and drove over to Hendry’s Beach for a sunset dinner at the Boathouse perched right there at the edge of the sand. And what luck we had!
First, we caught a glimpse of a gray whale lumbering through the Santa Barbara Channel, so close to shore you could have swum out and given it a pat on its mottled back. And then, as we left (had to get back to those dogs) we were treated to the beginning of a most beautiful moonrise.
It was rising in the east, peeking over the rise of the Mesa, where it is supposed to be, right?But as I watched it, I remembered an evening a few years ago when I looked out the window and saw what appeareda spectacular moonrise in the western sky.
We’ve all seen a pale moon here and there in the daytime sky, staying out after curfew. But rising in the west? It was either the beginning of the apocalypse or I’d been carrying around some major misinformation all my life. Doesn’t the moon rise in the east and set in the west like the sun?
So I finally looked it up and yes, order is restored. The moon rises due east and sets due west twice a year at the fall and spring equinoxes. It wanders about from there depending on the time of year, rising north or south of east and setting north or south of west.
But then, how did I see it rise in the west?
It was a new moon. According to earthsky.org “On the day of new moon, the moon rises when the sun rises. It sets when the sun sets.” As the new moon was setting, it was apparently illuminated by the setting sun. A different way to say “Goodnight, Moon”.
Not sure why it took me sixty-some trips around the sun to notice the moon, but better late than never. I see the moon and the moon sees me – from wherever it happens to be that night.
A much better photographer than me got this beautiful moonrise shot (edhat image):