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So, it works something like this...

Unbeknownst to the ancients, we orbit around the sun. And, unlike what you learn in science class, the real simplicity wasn't understanding that the earth is not the center of the universe, it was realizing that we orbit in elliptical orbits, not perfect circles.

Thus, the moon gets closer or farther from us throughout it's orbit. And because the earth-moon system is orbiting around the sun, this means that sometimes the perigee (when the moon is closer to Earth) lines up with a full moon and sometimes it lines up with a new moon or somewhere in between.

The thing that I didn't realize until I was an adult is what it really means to have the full moon. It means that the moon and sun are on opposite sides of the planet. If the orbits align especially right, there's a lunar eclipse.

But what this also means is that the full moon is rising exactly as the sun is setting.

And, from that, one will realize that the best time to get a shot where the moon is about at the same exposure value as the terrain starts a few days before the full moon and continues until the full moon.

We've got a lot of sunrises and sunsets, but a little over one order of magnitude less full moons. It's not the sort of number one could count and consider themselves lucky about... like seeing Haley's Comet twice in one's lifespan... but it's more palatable.

The wife and I went to Bodega Bay because there were excellent discounts mid-winter. And it turned out to be quite a beautiful trip that we had tons of fun on, and I even timed the dinner reservation to be such that we'd have time to catch the sunset/moonrise, then eat, then do some super-long exposure shooting.

You'll presently find that I have an overdeveloped awareness of where the moon is, and if you walk or bike with me and it's out in the sky, I'll probably point it out.

I should also note that it's 40 years since Apollo 11. I was not alive for this. Most of my lifespan has been spent watching NASA go up and down from low earth orbit. And the shuttle is going to fly for the last time sometime next year. At the moment, there is a commission out there trying to figure out what to do with the space program, given that the direction it's going right now (which you might have seen glossy pictures of) is looking more and more like a dead end that will end up doing even less than the space shuttle. You might question why we're bothering spending money on the space program with the economy and the poor and whatnot. I can assure you that the space program is less than a percent of the federal expenditures, so were they to cut NASA's budget entirely, it wouldn't make room for anything particularly useful.

Also, if you consider the way that my life has turned out so far, I tend to think that, without the space program, I'd probably have had a lot less drive to make it through school. Sure I'm not an astronaut, but the idea of somewhere in my future having some part of space exploration sure made science class a hundred times easier to focus in, no?

This was in January 2009.

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