By Kamerly Tyler
As we welcome December’s Full Moon, also known as the Long Nights Moon or Cold Moon, we prepare to bid farewell to Autumn and encourage the hibernation and regeneration of Winter. When you look up at the sky tonight, remember to reflect on the magnificent power the Moon has played both our planet’s history and also your own.
It’s believed that the Moon affects the human body because of it’s role in the oceans’ tides. For centuries there have been reports of interrupted sleep, higher birth rates, increased blood loss, and aggravated or amplified mental states during the Full Moon, despite the fact that tidal force is a weak force. Another theory suggests that the slight increase in positive ions during this period could be the cause of altered behavior.
If we want to understand the Moon’s affect on humankind, we first need to understand how it works. Illuminated by the sun, the Moon travels once around the Earth every 29.5 days and goes through a variety of phases that change its appearance. At the New Moon, the Moon is sandwiched directly between the Earth and the Sun and receives no direct sunlight; as a result it appears to have disappeared from the sky. As the moon gradually orbits the Earth, it becomes more illuminated by direct sunlight. When the Moon has moved 180 degrees around the Earth it is completely lit by the photons radiating from the Sun.
We know based on research from the Apollo missions that the Moon has the same density as the Earth and is made of the same material. One theory proposes that a giant rock collided with the Earth and caused part of the Earth’s mantle to form around it. The rock was close enough to Earth that gravity caused it to orbit our planet, and thus the Moon was formed. Just as we are made of the elements that make up the Earth, so too, is the Moon.
Nocturnal travelers have sought solace in the moon’s light, using its glow for direction, time, and spiritual guidance. Throughout human history agricultural, mathematical, and scientific theories have been derived from observation of the moon alone, and we today seek comfort and guidance in its presence. Even when the moon appears to be waning, its shape and ubiquity in the nights’ sky remains consistent.
Carl Sagan best stated, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff.”
Remember that as you take the opportunity to admire and wonder about our natural world this evening. Be mindful. Be present. Be alive.