Wallpaper Wednesday

4 07 2012

NASA’s RASCAL with Camera Mount Under “Blue” Moon. Photo credit: NASA Ames/Dominic Hart

There are a few things you shouldn’t do during a full moon. You should avoid criminal activity—your neighbors will probably recognize you in the bright light and if you end up in the emergency room, you’ll get inadequate care because of overcrowding (even if statistical analyses indicate there’s no relationship between the lunar cycle and emergency room chaos, do you really want to take the chance?). You should also avoid going to bed with the blinds open—your neighbors will have a good view of your after-dark activities and even if you’re intending to sleep, the moonlight will keep you awake by shining in your eyes (I proved this one last night). You should avoid looking at a magnified view of a full moon—your neighbors may wander over to ask what you’re observing after you set up the telescope, but they’ll be less than impressed when they go home with an after-image of the moon burned into their retinas (been there, done that, only with Mars).

What you can do during a full moon: naked eye observing. Sky and Telescope has some tips on studying the maria, craters, and volcanic patches on the lunar surface. Or, you can take some of Deirdre Kelleghan‘s advice and try your hand at Sketching the Moon (visit the publisher’s website). Another option: Study the lunar calendar so you know the date of the next Blue Moon (I’ll save you some trouble—it’s August 31, 2012). Or spend the evening looking through NASA’s archive of moon photos.

One thing you should definitely do is click on the image above to download the wallpaper of a Blue Moon fronted by NASA’s RASCAL. This wallpaper perfectly captures my ambivalence about some of NASA’s research (past and present). As much as I’d love to sink more money into programs like MSL and the Hubble Telescope, I can’t forget NASA’s close connection with military research. A beautiful Blue Moon shining behind a modified UH-60 Black Hawk reminds me of that association, but more importantly, it demonstrates how easy it is to distract me with shiny objects and moon rocks. I should be paying more attention to what’s going on outside the public eye.

Happy Independence Day.