That's Not the Moon

Last night marked the fifth night of close observation of the moon setting into or over San Francisco. One night was done without the aid of my powerful binoculars, I was out and the tripod would have seemed a bit intrusive. Last night was the closest we would get to a perfect quarter moon, it was officially and exactly quartered around 14:30 in the afternoon and our setting time last night over the City was 0:23.

I am a bit disappointed that I have not been able to successfully google pictures that do justice to the visuals I have seen. And I mourn one last time my own shortcomings in the telephoto/nocturnal camera arena. As always I will attempt to paint you a worthy image in words.

I also want to acknowledge my own, previously overlooked, lack of learning in the general area of astronomy. Each and every night I discover another phenomenon that sends me off asurfin' to uncover the physics of the heavens. I won't overburden you with each and every mote of new learning I uncover. I assume some of you know a lot more in this area than I do and many more of you do not want to wade through the formula, azimuths and ephemeris to "know" why the sky is just amazingly fascinating. 

As I said last night was a near perfect quarter moon but the previous evening (also fairly close to a quarter) I could clearly see the other facing quarter of the sphere. Instead of being slightly lighter than the dark sky, last night the dark quarter of the moon was precisely the same pitch as the sky. This meant the moon presented itself as a jagged edged illusion, as if the top half of the moon was not actually there, like the photo above. And while I watched the descent the oranging began. First the white slice became slightly dirty, then a few minutes later a perfectly hued hard taco shell loomed over the Transamerica building. Following the corn flour tan came the slow darkening towards burnt orange, but not without a new visual.

The low clouds over the City created a reflection of some kind, lines of orange would appear below the moon and slowly the two would melt together. At one point the detached line was a bit more red and dancing in the reflected heat of San Francisco. As the two merged it appeared that the lower edge of the setting moon had begun to flame and burn, as if it would need to quench itself in the Pacific.

The final setting was, as it has been for several nights, a complete distortion of the moon's crescent. Last night both the top and bottom tips of the quarter were lost in the over&undercast. Anyone peering through my magic glasses at that moment would have seen a large orange blob just above the buildings of the city. No one would have guessed this was the perfect quarter we had seen twenty minutes before. Finally, instead of descending behind one of San Francisco's many hills, a misty grey cloud rose up and consumed the orange and it was gone again until tonight

Cold hearted orb that rules the night
Removes the colours from our sight
Red is grey and yellow, white
But we decided which is right
               Moody Blues
"Late Lament" from Days of Future Passed
net photo - uncredited