Friday, June 10, 2011

Playing bright and dark on the sky!



Before 1960s, it was then a routine
for the family members of the house to sit on the veranda or steps of the house at dusk and engage in gossips. Elders go on narrating about deeds and stories to the kids. In the midst of it they don't miss to point out at the bright stars shining on the sky. (My mom was then a guide to me apprising me about the 'Belt Stars' of the sky!). Messages about these wonders on the sky were passed on by mouths in such a way. At present also such wonders are shown to the public through daily news papers.

Recently the planet Saturn was said to be seen as shining brightest ever in this century. Why should there be such an occasional brightness from the planets? It can be explained with our Earth's moon that undergoes different phases. When moon lies far off and opposite to the Sun with the Earth lying in the middle we see Full moon from the darker side of Earth (night time). Similarly, when outer planets of our Solar system lie far off opposite to the sun, we see them also brighter as does a full moon. This phenomenon is called Opposition.


We recently read also the news about four planets seen grouped in the East, before dawn. It is due to the arrangement of those planets in such a way that sun lies in between them and the Earth; thus they appear grouped together from Earth. This is said to be Conjunction. It is opposite of Opposition.


Then how could there be darkness on a Full moon day? By movements of either the Earth or the moon itself, the moon passes into the larger shadow cast by the Earth. At this time the moon slowly disappears with failing of its (moon)light on the Earth; without moonlight the Earth plunges into darkness unusually in full moon day! This is the Total Lunar Eclipse. Thus lunar eclipses happen only on full moon days.
Becoming brightest or disappearing from view are really wonders on the sky - to be shown to the kids to make them wonder about! On coming 15 June 2011 there is a wonder: Total Lunar Eclipse!

2 comments:

Emma Springfield said...

Your opening words brought a flood of childhood memories from the 1950's. I adored playing jacks or just lolling on the steps as I listened to the adults talking. And they did indeed point out stars, moon stages, and constellations to us. The rest of the article is wonderful too.

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