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The Face on the Moon    
 
 
 

We've all seen the familiar "Moon Face" designer motif. The Moon's "face" can be found adorning everything from wall calendars to home accessories. Items showing a Sun face, or combined Sun and Moon designer elements, have been very fashionable in recent years. One can hardly walk through "Bed, Bath and Beyond" without seeing dozens!

Such solar and lunar representations are popular with New Age types, such as devotees of astrology. But modern pagans should not have a monopoly on such celestial imagery. The tradition of showing the Sun and Moon with faces is very old. It is very common to see Medieval and Early Modern Christian works with woodcuts featuring the Sun and Moon with faces. Many of the The Biblical woodcuts of the great Albrecht Durer depict the Sun and Moon with faces. Even the frontispiece of the 1611 King James Bible includes a Sun and Moon with faces.

The Sun is very bright, and even with a solar filter, one would need a lot of imagination to find a face there! But the Moon actually does have a face, if you know how to look at it!


The Moon's Face

Anyone can see that the Moon has dark and light features. With a little imagination, it's not hard to find a pair of eyes, a nose and a mouth amidst the dark features. It's similar to finding shapes among clouds. Of course a cloud doesn't *really* look like a horse or a bear, but it might have a recognizable outline. Though it might be a stretch, it is possible to imagine a face within the Moon's markings.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, you can pretty clearly see a "left eye" on the Moon's disc. To the right of that is a complication of dark features, out of which one can pick out a "right eye." Between these two and underneath is a small, dark, twisted area that can be a imagined as a nose. And underneath the nose is a round "O-shaped" mouth. There is even an "eyebrow" feature above the "eyes."

The Moon's "face" has a surprised expression, or perhaps looks sad. The dark areas around the right eye appear to me as tears running down the Moon's face, as though the Moon were crying. Perhaps the Moon is sad because it must perpetually face toward a world of sin and iniquity!

The best time to look for the Moon's face is around the Full Moon, when the entire lunar disc can be seen. You can also do well spotting the Moon's face a few days on either side of the Full Moon, when the Moon is in a thick gibbous phase.

Since the Moon is so bright, it helps a lot to cut down on the Moon's bright glare. The Waxing Gibbous Moon can be seen in the evening twilight, when the sky is still bright. This improves visibility of the Moon's face. You can also spot the Waning Gibbous Moon in the early morning twilight around sunrise.

Summer is a great time to spot the Moon's face, since the Full and Gibbous Moons are low in the sky throughput the night, which reduces the Moon's glare. If it's nighttime and you want to look at the Moon's face, you can wear a regular pair of sunglasses. This cuts a lot of glare and sharpens up the Moon's face quite a bit. You can also view the Moon through binoculars, which can help you see the face, and also the actual features that make up the face.


Other Lunar Shapes

Some people call this face "The Man in the Moon." There's a ton of folklore about this mysterious Man in the Moon, and it's not very consistent. The ancient pagan Anglo-Saxons saw the Moon as a male god. Some say the Moon's face is a pagan cultural relic associated with this myth. But in later centuries, the Christian descendents of the early English saw a different "Man in the Moon" amidst the Moon's markings.

In one old English legend, the Man in the Moon is picked out as the figure of an old man carrying a bundle of sticks. This man did work collecting sticks on Sunday, and thus did not keep holy the LORD's day. As his punishment, he was placed on the disc of the Moon, to be a warning to any boys and girls who would follow his bad example! Perhaps this legend was the inspiration for this Mother Goose rhyme:

"The Man in the Moon
" Looked out of the Moon,
" Looked out of the Moon and said
" 'Tis time for all children on the Earth
" To think about getting to bed!"

And just as clouds can show different shapes to different observers, other cultures saw different features besides a face in the Moon's markings. Some western cultures see a "rabbit" in the Moon. The Chinese see a "toad" in the Moon. Still others have really stretched it to see the head of a lady in the Moon. My personal oddball favorite is seeing Mickey Mouse on the Moon's disc! We don't hear much about the "Mouse in the Moon!"


Around the Globe

The face on the Moon would be oriented differently at various times of the night. The "top" of the Moon's face points toward the North. So when the Moon is rising and setting, the face is tilted somewhat on it's side.

The Moon's orientation can vary in other parts of the world. The tilting effect would be more pronounced in the Tropics, where the entire sphere of the sky appears to lay on it's side. The Moon would appear to be "laying its head" on the horizon while rising and setting!

In the southern hemisphere, the Moon's face would appear upside down! From the southern latitudes, South is "up" in the sky, so the "top" of the Moon's face would point down. If you live in the lands "Down Under," you might have to use a *lot* of imagination to see the Moon's face!

As we noted in a previous Update, the movie "The Passion of the Christ" is the only movie of note that accurately showed a Full Moon in the sky during the Passover, as it would be according to the Law of Moses. And though this movie was excellent in so many ways, there was a goof with the face of the Moon!

The Moon's face was shown turned too far away from how it would appear in the northern latitude of Jerusalem. The Moon actually appeared oriented as it might be seen in the southern hemisphere, not the Holy Land. Interestingly, Mel Gibson grew up in Australia, and it may be that this appearance of the Full Moon looked natural to him!

As Moses said in the Blessing of Joseph:

"Blessed of the LORD be his land, for the precious things of heaven... for the precious things put forth by the Moon." -- Deuteronomy 33:13a, 14b

In addition to the moonlight and the tides and the other things, we can surely add the Moon's face as one of those "precious things," as we will read of below.


History of the Moon's Face

Since ancient times, people have been able to find a face amidst the dark lunar features. In the First Century A.D., the Greek philosopher Plutarch wrote a book entitled, "Concerning the Face Which Appears in the Orb of the Moon." In an early observation of nearsightedness, Plutarch wrote:

" Dull and weak eyes discern not distinction of shape in the Moon but her orb for them has an even and full light, whereas those of keen and robust vision make out more precisely and distinctly the pattern of facial features and more clearly perceive the variations."

Plutarch's book was mostly concerned with addressing problems with the pseudo-scientific, Earth-centered notions of Aristotle. This book is remarkable in that it reveals that the ancients were well aware of the implications of a Sun-centered cosmology. However, they rejected this idea since it was not explainable by the erroneous physics of Aristotle.

Remarkably, no attempt was made to name the dark features on the Moon in ancient times. The nature of the Moon's dark markings was a mystery for ancient astronomers, who believed that the celestial bodies were "perfect." This notion, and the rest of the cosmology of Aristotle, collapsed upon the invention of the telescope. It was in fact the Moon's face that hastened the demise of the ancient Earth-centered science.

Galileo was the first to observe the Moon's surface through a telescope. In his 1609 book, "Starry Messenger," Galileo noted:

" From observations of these spots repeated many times I have been led to the opinion and conviction that the surface of the Moon is not smooth, uniform and precisely spherical as a great number of philosophers believe it (and the other heavely bodies) to be, but is uneven, rough, and full of cavities and prominences, being not unlike the face of the Earth."

In observing the dark features of the Moon, Galileo further remarked:

" As to the large lunar spots, these are not seen to be broken in the above manner... rather, they are even and uniform.... Hence if anyone wished to revive the old Pythagorean notion that the Moon is like another Earth, its brighter part might fitly represent the surface of the land and its darker region that of the water."

In this way, Galileo suggested the dark areas might actually be oceans or "seas" upon the face of the Moon. Through a small, amateur telescope the Moon's "seas" do have a very soft, velvety appearance, different from the rocky, lighter areas.

The generations following Galileo latched on to the idea of lunar seas. The first telescopic lunar atlas was prepared in the mid-1600s by Johannes Hevelius. It was Hevelius who first gave individual names to these dark markings. Following Galileo's observation, Hevelius named the "seas":

Left Eye -- Sea of Showers;
Right Eye -- Sea of Serenity;
" Tears" -- Sea of Tranquility;
" Tears" -- Sea of Fertility;
" Tears" -- Sea of Nectar;
Eyebrows -- Sea of Cold;
Nose -- Sea of Vapors;
Mouth -- Sea of Clouds.

In the time of Hevelius, the idea of "life on other worlds" was very popular. It was believed that the Moon and all the planets were inhabited by beings suitably adapted to live on these alien worlds. In this modern era of spaceflight, we know that the Moon and planets are dead worlds. The "Seas" are simply an illusion. The Moon's surface is dry and dusty, and the dark "Seas" are actually areas of the Moon that are less-craggy that the lighter areas.

((((ACTIVITY))))
Have your homeschool scholars draw the Seas of the Moon and label them on the drawing. And each month when the Moon is gibbous or full, try to learn to spot the Moon's face. List how many Seas can be seen with the unaided eye.


The Moon's Orbit

There are many interesting features of the Moon's orbit. One very interesting feature is that the Moon's face is always turned toward the Earth. As the Moon orbits the Earth, the side with the dark seas always faces our globe. The invisible "Far Side of the Moon" is a craggy, featureless side, almost completely pock-marked with craters, and always turned away from human sight.

The Moon is "tidally locked" in its orbit around the Earth. Just as the Moon's gravity pulls up the tide on the Earth, the gravity of the Earth also pulls back on the Moon. In fact, the Earth actually pulls on the face of the Moon! There are lunar features called "mascons," short for "mass concentrations." These mascons are actually heavy parts of the Moon upon which Earth's gravity has the strongest pull.

The five major mascons are located in the "front" of the Moon, near the surface. These shift the Moon's center of gravity so that the Earth's gravity tugs prominently on these mascons, thereby keeping the near side facing toward the Earth. The interesting part is, the mascons nearly line up under the features of the Moon's face! Mascons are located under the Moon's two "eyes." The mascons almost make a Moon face of their own!


That Problematic Moon!

Modern astronomy claims to have all the answers about "long, long ago" and "galaxies far, far away." But that little Moon right next door has always made problems for evolutionists! Scientists have always had difficulties in devising a materialistic, mechanistic scenario for explaining how the Earth-Moon system came to be.

When I was a public school kid in the 1960s, we were taught the "Moon Ejection" theory. The Moon was somehow thrown off from the Earth sometime in the first few zillion years of the solar system. This idea didn't really work because it didn't explain how an Earth could be spinning so fast that a Moon-sized body could fly off. How could it have existed in the first place without tearing itself apart?

Professional scientists at the time also liked the "Co-Accretion" theory. The Earth and Moon were imagined as forming at the same time in their orbits from the same cloud of cosmic debris. But this idea had lots of problems, because the Earth and the Moon would have to be formed of the same sort of stuff. Scientists concluded from various indirect measurements that the Earth included a lot of iron. But the Moon had very little iron. So they both could not have formed from the same rock pile. The "Ejection" theory also had the same problem.

Another idea was the "Capture" theory. Maybe the Moon was a "rogue planet" floating around the solar system. One day, it got too close to the Earth, was captured by the Earth's gravity, and pulled into an orbit. The academics liked this one a lot, since it allowed the Moon to be made out of different stuff than the Earth. The problem was, if a Moon-sized body were captured by the Earth, it would likely be in a very elongated orbit, coming very close and going very far away from the Earth each month.

The fact is, the Moon's orbit is too circular to allow for a plausible capture scenario. The Moon would have to approach the Earth at exactly the right speed, from exactly the right angle in order to end up in its current orbit-- in other words, a scientific miracle! But science can't have any of that "miracle" stuff, so this theory didn't wash.

In the midst of these theories, the mascons also posed a minor problem. How could such lumpy, lopsided masses form so close to the Moon's surface? The Moon as it exists in the sky is just too perfectly fashioned to fit into any naturalistic scenario!

Most confident evolutionary scientists in the 1960s believed that all these issues would be resolved by the Apollo Moon missions. Unfortunately for secular materialist philosophy, the problem got worse after Apollo!

Samples of Moon rocks returned by the astronauts had a distribution of oxygen isotopes that was exactly the same as the Earth. This was different from meteors and Mars rocks that had a different distribution. This new finding suggested that the Earth and Moon both got their oxygen from the same source!

Mainstream secular science in the 1970s was left to ponder a Moon with oxygen like the Earth, but with none of the Earth's iron, and circling our world in an orbit too perfect to be a product of random chance.

After a few years of head-scratching, some science guys dreamed up a scenario that presumed to explain away all these inconsistencies. The "Collisional Ejection" or "Giant Impact" theory posited that, in the early solar system, a rogue planet the size of Mars was wandering through the solar system, and smacked into the primitive "proto-earth." Chunks were blown off that conveniently contained all the oxygen but none of the iron, and these chunks came together as the Moon. The rest settled back down to evolve into our home world, the Earth.

The "Giant Impact" theory is plainly a blatant piece of reverse-engineering, concocted to shoe-horn all the available scientific data about the Moon into a conveniently unprovable scenario. The theorists even created a computer model with splashy graphics to illustrate the impact event. And don't we all know that if you can create a computer model, it must be true!

This scenario is an exemplary piece of the sort of bad science for which evolutionary theorists are famous. It is totally contrived, not suggested from any direct evidence, and is not testable in any way. Though it cannot be proved or disproved, the "Giant Impact" theory is nevertheless widely accepted by mainstream science since no one has dreamed up a more plausible mechanistic explanation. And yet, this wobbley notion is proclaimed in textbooks and the popular media as the standard model of the formation of the Earth/Moon system.

Surely this sort of thing is frustrating for Biblical Creationists who ask mainstream science to explain "how do we know what we think we know." But we can be heartened at such efforts by atheistic philosophers. Such desparate measures actually affirm the sovereignty of the LORD!

The sad face that shines in the night sky can remind us that the LORD made the Moon with His own fingers (Psalm 8:3). For all of man's brains and creativity, some knowledge will always slip through his own fingers. No man can explain how the LORD made His Moon!


For more information about topics from Classical Astronomy, please check out Signs & Seasons, a homeschool astronomy curriculum!


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