December 21 marks the shortest day ï¿½ and the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. This year there was an extra treat on the solstice: A total lunar eclipse. Our question today: Do you know the distance to the moon?
December 21 marks the shortest day ï¿½ and the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. This year there was an extra treat on the solstice: A total lunar eclipse.
The last time both happened on the same day was in 1638. Some places in Scotland had a good view. California would have ï¿½ if it didn't rain. In Reykjavik, crowds witnessed the moon turn a deep red. Astronomer David Whitehouse says over the millennia, people have made much of the color.
ï¿½It's a remarkable pinkish and that's fascinating because when the ancients thousands of years ago, when they saw this moon turning the color of blood, this was the moon god giving its gift of fertility back to humans againï¿½.
Pinkish or the color of blood it may be during an eclipse but the question today is: How high the moon? Do you know the distance to the moon?
It's approximately a quarter of a million miles from the Earth's center to the center of the moon. 239,000 miles is a very good answer. It varies a bit because the moon travels around the Earth in an ellipse.
Scientists can calculate the exact distance thanks to some nifty ï¿½Retroreflectorsï¿½ that Apollo mission astronauts left behind on the moon. Researchers here on Earth can fire laser pulses at the retroreflectors to measure the time it takes for the light to make the round-trip. By the way ï¿½ if you did happen to catch a glimpse of the total lunar eclipse on this, the Winter Solstice consider yourself lucky. Those two celestial events won't coincide again till 2094.
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