Wednesday 1 February 2023

Rabbit or Man in-the-Moon - waxing or waning gibbous

Is there a Man in the Moon, or a Rabbit

It's partly a question of moon phase - and I have a theory as to how the two ideas arose.

The Rabbit is associated with Easter (Easter Bunny...), and is best seen when the moon is in the waxing gibbous phase - leading up to full moon; and this phase of moon is best seen in the evenings. 

My theory is that the people who were watching the moon wax towards full, in order to know when Easter was to arrive (with Easter day coming on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox... approximately). 

Easter spotters will have been observing the moon during the evenings of the waxing gibbous phase - when the Rabbit is the most obvious appearance; and the Man's face is not visible at all. 

By contrast, the waning gibbous moon is best visible early in the mornings.

Those who were outdoors and saw the moon at this time of day were probably on their way to start work, maybe a bit down-hearted; and in a mood to appreciate the cock-eyes, ironic grin of the old moon; affectionately regarded as an old Man...

That is all a bit tenuous, I agree - but the Easter rabbit idea works quite neatly. 

Note: The above photos do not illustrate the Rabbit or Man at all obviously, compared with what I see with the naked eye - indeed I cannot find any decent photos online. It is apparently one of those things you just need to See For Yourself. 

The appearances are most evident when the moon is nearest the horizon - the rabbit when nearest moon-rise and the man nearish moon-set. This is due to the (at my latitude) c1/3 clockwise rotation of the moon from rising to setting. 

Thus the rabbit begins with ears horizontal, but by moon-set the rabbit is on his side, with ears pointing down - and not obviously a rabbit. 

Similarly, for the Man's face to have eyes at the top is most evident getting towards moonset.


Luke said...

The top image looks like a barking dog to me, I'll keep an eye on the moon though and try to spot the rabbit.

a_probst said...

You didn't mention another feature only visible with the naked eye: The face of The Woman in the Moon/Artemis/Diana or, as my old grandmother (1889-1971) used to call her, The Gibson Girl.

She's bound by Mare Vaporum, Sinus Aestuum, Sinus Medii, and Fra Mauro, and appears to be facing Crater Copernicus, Mare Imbrium, and Oceanus Procellarum. (Boy, the spell-check doesn't like these Latin names.)

But in a telescopic view she looks like a profile of a manatee's head.

Then again, manatees used to be mistaken for mermaids.