Thursday, 2 July 2009

July - Moon Month

July is a big month for the moon. Remove July from history and you lose some of the most important lunar events ever recorded by man. Here’s a rundown of the month and the moon and a little insight into how various celebrations in July 2009 are keeping MoonMan busy in the next few weeks.

July moonwalk

After two moonwalks in June – one which involved being chased by furious dogs in Wales, the other which had me in a bra – July promises to be a more placid affair. It’s all to do with fish.

Taverham Mills, Norfolk. Monday 6th July. Overnight. Twenty-four hours of fishing by the light of the full moon (and the light of the sun) with my brother and any other hardy souls who are fishing the lake after the weekend. Why? Because it’s one of those rumours that’s intrigued me since the beginning of my adventures.

Lake and river fish don’t bite under full moon. Discuss. Or spend a full moon by the river’s edge and wait for a bite. Men versus slimy fish. I’m sure carp realise how humans avoid fishing around full moon, so let’s go surprise them. One catch will do. I don’t have much confidence.

Lunar planting

Last week I wrote to Prince Charles. The Prince of Wales, you see, is a supporter of biodynamic farming. He believes – like many other farmers and planters – that crop yields and crop quality relies a lot on the moon’s phases. All to do with moisture and gravity as far as I understand – the moon’s gravitational pull drawing Earth’s waters towards it.

On Saturday 4th July I’m travelling to Dorchester where I hope to speak to the Bells (Denise and Ian). They own a farm a few miles from town. On that farm they have some crops – and they plant those crops when the moon is in the optimum position, according to lunar charts. Hocus pocus or nice spuds? I hope to find out at the weekend by sampling some carrots etc.

Walking on the moon

You may remember, or you may have heard, that on 16th July 1969 man walked on the moon. 40 years ago this month. Two men, lots of bouncing around. Today, the feat seems to have lost some of its majesty – with flippant remarks like “lots of bouncing around”. Landing two men on the moon was huge. Travelling nearly 250,000 miles there and back in just a few days pushed human kind beyond any realm of believability; in fact, it pushed us into science fiction. And still to this day many consider the moon landing an elaborate hoax.

This is the month for my own lunar explorations.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

NASA’s LRO is currently keeping the moon company and taking lots of pictures of its surface. Through July, NASA’s little box of experimental equipment will be surveying the lunar surface before giving its life and launching, kamikaze-style, into the moon dust. What will the explosion throw up? Nobody knows.

But I’ll be keeping all my readers up-to-date with the latest findings.

17th century lunar observing

In June, outside the farmhouse of Trefenty, baying hounds (wow, this gets more dramatic with each retelling), their jowls dripping blood, chased me out of their gates into the winding dirt tracks of rural Carmarthenshire. I’d only popped in to find out a little about William Lower, the Trefenty lad with a penchant for the moon.

Lower and English learned fellow Thomas Harriot were good friends – possibly closest friends and certainly scientific brethren. The letters they exchanged reveal just how exciting and advanced the newfound hobby (of the rich) astronomy was in England and Wales at the time. Harriot is now remembered as the man who first recorded a sketch of the moon’s mottled surface on 26th July 1609.

This and other sketches are on display at Chichester from 1 August. These are history – slightly crumpled, sepia history. I implore anybody near Chichester in August to pay a visit. The British have done some special things in their time – and being the first (that’s before Galileo – the Father of Modern Astronomy) to record lunar observations through a telescope ranks pretty high.

It’s going to be a busy moon-packed month. It’s probably my make or break month. If I can’t attract a publisher in a month dominated by my subject, I should give up now. Never. I vowed to bring lunar living to the masses.

Now’s my chance.

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