The post-eclipse Moon: This week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Aug 28, 2017


In the aftermath of the Great American Eclipse, the moving Moon goes up the sky, as though merely fulfilling its routine tasks, meeting and greeting all the planets and stars. And though the eclipse is over now, I like to think we can feel it still.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I was asked several times why the shadow of the eclipse moves from west to east? Most people assume that the Moon moves through the sky like the Sun, from east to west, but this is not the case. The Moon moves in the same direction as the Earth, which is eastward, even though it appears in the sky, which seems to move over the Earth westward. 

If we consider it phenomenologically, we see that after New Phase, the Moon pulls away from the Sun after it sets, in the west. Then, as a waxing crescent, the Moon grows steadily larger as it travels eastward. This will happen all this week, as the Moon moves past the star Antares and the planet Saturn mid-week, then across the field of Milky Way stars Thursday and Friday, and on through the region of Capricorn, until it comes to Full Phase among the stars of Aquarius next week. At Full Phase the Moon rises in the east just as the Sun sets in the west. 

After Full Phase, the Moon continues to fall eastward against the background of stars, until we see it at dawn, sweeping eastward toward Sun and its next new phase. Then it will appear again in the west.

Because the Moon is the closest celestial body to us, there seems to be an assumption that it is the easiest thing for us to understand, but this is not the case.  Proximity to something does not reveal its mystery~in fact, the closer things are, the less likely we understand them, in life, as in the cosmos. Afterall, the Moon is much smaller than the Sun, and yet, it can completely block that greater light, and turn the world into something new.