About ten years ago we were driving along on a clear, cold December late afternoon. The moon was just a thin crescent in the darkening sky and one of our kids said, “Hey, look! You can see the rest of the moon!” My wife agreed, but of course I was too smart for this and said that it was only an optical illusion, that of course you couldn’t see the whole moon when it wasn’t a full moon. End of story, right?
It wasn’t until last year that I began to suspect that maybe there was something more to this phenomenon. What got me thinking about it was the lyrics from the Rush tune “Earthshine.” Though it first appeared on their “Vapor Trails” album, I hadn’t heard it until I got the R30 anniversary tour CD and DVD (also posted about here). Looking it up via Google and Wikipedia I found that yes, indeed, there is such a thing as Earthshine, and I was wrong.
Early this morning, another cold December day, and I’m taking out the trash and recycling. There in the clear dawn sky is a bright, thin waning crescent. And a faint glow of the rest of the moon. Earthshine.
On certain nights
When the angles are right
And the moon is a slender crescent
Its circle shows
In a ghostly glow
Of earthly luminescence