By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
Nestled snuggly in the Ouachita wilderness off Holson Valley Road, Briar Circle is not the best place to witness spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
In the morning, sunlight comes in rather slowly, at its ease, then suddenly it’s there all at once. There are no brilliant shades of red, orange or yellow to herald it, for they are hidden behind a curtain of mountains and pine trees, with no visible horizon to speak of.
This performance is repeated in reverse in the west when the sun goes down behind Post Mountain, in another loafing sort of way, and suddenly, it’s dark.
The moonrise, though, is different. Being “off the grid” has disadvantages for persons who like to see what they’re up to at night, but when there is no intrusion of artificial light, the view of the evening canopy is magnificent.
The moon comes up lightening the evening sky, then it peeps through the tree branches. Like the sun, it is not in a hurry. You do not mind this, for you want the presence to linger, and not leave quickly.
Last week’s full moon event was as wonderful as any I have ever seen, and the moon found a dozen or so people of assorted ages gathered down by the cabin and Doris’ Pond with a campfire, hamburgers, brats, marshmallows and a telescope. I took notes. So, here are a few random “moon facts” I picked up from the vagrant astronomers:
I thought it was a long way to the top of Post Mountain, but that’s just peanuts compared to the distance to the moon. The average distance is 238,857 miles. “Average” is an important word, here, for the moon’s orbit is elliptical, not merely circular, so the distance is sometimes farther, sometimes closer.
Its farthest point is called its Apogee; the closest, Perigee. I am satisfied with bath of these words. They have been in use for some time, now, and while unlikely to come up in casual conversation, they perfectly suit what they’re intended to describe.
The surface of the moon is 14,658,000 square miles, or 9.4 billion acres. I prefer to think of the surface area in terms of acres, for the family has 20 acres at Briar Circle, which gives me a comparison for an accurate perspective on the moon’s 9.4 billion.
When Neil Armstrong and his partners planted the American flag there in 1969, they apparently claimed the whole moon for America. Other than to litter a little bit, they did nothing with the property and the neighborhood has not been developed.
You can see the area where humans took their first steps with a telescope! This was pointed out to me by one of the knowledgeable astronomers, but the footprints were not visible, not even with the $250 telescope.
There is no rush to see them, though, for they will be there awhile. There is no weather or “geophysical” activity on the moon. Any tracks left by humans will be there millions of years.
When a month has two full moons, the second is the “blue moon.”
The moon has a strong gravitational pull, which affects the oceans and gives us high tides and low tides. Some claim the human body, being 60 percent water, is also affected.
The “Man on the Moon” is no longer imaginative fiction, for there is, literally, a man on the moon! The cremated remains of Doctor Eugene Shoemaker, a NASA lunar prospector, were crashed into a crater in 1999 in observance of his last wishes.
“That was where he wanted to be interred,” a colleague stated, and as long as they were sending a research craft there anyway, his wish was honored. The person sharing this information did not know how much it cost or how the good Doctor is liking it, but he did his part, and it was a small thing for NASA to do.
More was said, but space here doesn’t allow its inclusion. Eventually, it became my turn to offer an intelligent comment. All eyes were upon me. I looked at the beautiful brilliant orb and said, “Uh—it sure is bright, ain’t it!”
The general consensus was, I did not disappoint anybody’s expectations.