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03/02/2020 – Ephemeris – Greek use of the first quarter Moon

March 2, 2020 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, March 2nd. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 14 minutes, setting at 6:32, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:15. The Moon, at first quarter today, will set at 2:39 tomorrow morning.

The Moon is at first quarter at 2:57 this afternoon. The ancient Greek philosopher/astronomer Aristarchus* tried to determine the distance to the Sun by observing the Moon at exactly first quarter and measuring the angle between it and the Sun. If we see the Moon at exactly first quarter when the sunrise line called the terminator cuts the Moon exactly in half then the angle at the Moon between the Sun and the Earth is a right or 90 degree angle. If we, on the Earth at that same instant were able to measure the angular distance between the Moon and the Sun. we could theoretically calculate the distance to the Sun. He was correct about the Moon’s distance, but calculated the Sun was at only about 10% of its actual distance.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

* In the actual broadcast program I erroneously credited the later Greek astronomer Hipparchus.

Addendum

Quarter Mon method of determining the Sun's distance

Quarter Moon method of determining the Sun’s distance by Aristarchus. Credit: andonee