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February 02 Issue

Farmers Are Taller Than Astronomers

Jeff M. Hardison
- Professor to the Stars
Mach 2 is twice the speed of sound. Mach 3, of course, is a Gillette brand of razor

A difference of opinion between the U.S. Naval Observatory (USNO) and two sets of almanacs, including the Farmers’ Almanac for the year of our Lord 2002, shows farmers are taller than astronomers.

The Farmers’ Almanac for the year of our Lord 2002 is the most recent version of this booklet filled with facts. This almanac has been published each year for Americans since 1818.
The January full moon of the year is called the Full Wolf Moon, according to the Farmers’ Almanac. Each month’s full moon has a different name. From January through December they are called Wolf, Snow, Worm, Pink, Flower Strawberry, Buck, Sturgeon, Fruit/Barley, Harvest, Hunters’, and Cold. Researchers, writers and editors for the Farmers’ Almanac say the first full moon of 2002 rose at 5:50 p.m. on Jan. 28 for people on the East Coast of the United States. Writers and editors of Grier’s Almanac 2002, 196th Annual Issue, concur with the staff of the Farmers’ Almanac. Grier’s Almanac first came out in 1807 and has been published every year since then. This gives Grier’s 11 years seniority, but the Farmers’ Almanac is better known.

A group of USNO scientists, however, disagreed with those two teams of almanac researchers. The full moon rose on Jan. 28 at 5:51 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, according to the Astronomical Applications Department of the USNO. The United States Naval Observatory, by the way, is one of the few places on earth where there is an atomic clock. An atomic clock is very precise. Its electrical oscillator is regulated by the natural vibration frequencies of an atomic system, such as a beam of cesium atoms, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. So, the USNO is able to keep track of each one-zillionth (or so) of a tick of a second.

Where did that single minute go between what the farmers are calling as the first moonrise, and what the USNO said was the moment of the first moonrise of 2002? One may ask as well from whence did that minute come? Depending on an individual’s perspective, the minute could be going or it could be coming.

I first thought the projected difference in time of moonrise resulted from the difference between when moonlight hits two locations. This sunlight reflected off the full face of the moon breaks above the horizon at Lewiston, Maine, where the Farmers’ Almanac has its offices, before it shatters the moonless air of St. Petersburg, Florida, I thought.

Saint Petersburg is where I told the USNO that I sought the date and time for the full moon of January. Grier’s is published in Atlanta. So there is that factor too.
I found my hypothesis about differences between the places to be incorrect. I tested my concept by revising my query to the USNO astronomers for Lewiston’s moonrise on that eve. I found the USNO predicted 5:51 p.m. for moonrise in Maine on Jan. 28 -- just as it had predicted that time for Florida.
Then, it dawned upon me that farmers must stand taller than astronomers do.

This was an easy truth to uncover. By being taller, farmers see moonlight one minute earlier than astronomers see the light, as can be shown by climbing a few steps up and down a ladder as one watches the moon come up. I decided, therefore, that the two predicted times of the first Full Wolf Moon on America’s East Coast were determined by the heights of farmers and astronomers. Actually, farmers and astronomers may use different methods of calculation to define moonrise, and to determine when it comes into existence, but my decision on how they made this determination sounded like more fun than such technicalities.

What about that one minute of difference? Does it matter? Yes it is important, but to varying degrees.

The existence of a particular minute is nothing, because time will exist until it no longer exists. What occurs within this minute, however, can mean the difference between life and death. Did the two stated times when the Full Wolf Moon rose matter to any person on the East Coast of the United States? Maybe. Maybe not. To determine whether it was important, I applied it to my trip to photograph the last full moon of 2001. I attempted to watch the Full Cold Moon as it rose over Tampa Bay. I gazed east from St. Petersburg’s Straub Park on Dec. 30. That Sunday, the clouds precluded me from taking a good picture of the first moonlight. Nevertheless, I based my departure from my home to reach that park on the astronomers’ predicted time of the rising moon.

Hypothetically, if Joe Lunarlooker left his house one minute earlier or one minute later for the Jan. 28, 2002, moonrise, depending on whether he trusted farmers or astronomers more, and then Joe was hit by a car, a person may ask if Joe should complain to the tall farmers or the short astronomers.

On this issue, I think Joe has no complaint for either predictor. There is a time for all things. Joe’s time to be hit by a car came on Jan. 28, 2002, and it would have happened no matter what. There are those individuals, however, who contend free will is a factor in Joe’s fate.

There are too many other variables in Joe’s wreck to blame it on the farmers or astronomers.
In any event, it is now my time to tell the world about moonrises and a tiny conflict between farmers and astronomers. While precision is vital, it may be better to avoid being bogged down by conflicts. Hence, I cut the minute in the middle. Therefore, according to my version of reality, the Full Wolf Moon of 2002 rose at 5:50 (and 30 seconds) p.m. on Jan. 28.

Full Snow Moon rises off of Vinoy Park Mach 22 lasts for one month

Looking to the east from Vinoy Park across Tampa Bay on Feb. 27 at 7:05 p.m., I saw the Full Snow Moon rise on the horizon. A biting cold wind blew from the northeast that Wednesday night as I stood alone in the park. This was my third consecutive attempt at seeing the full moonrise from various parts of the city’s downtown waterfront. I missed the rise of the Full Cold Moon of 2001 and the Full Wolf Moon 2002, because it was too cloudy in December and I chose the wrong vantage point in January. The February full moon is called the Full Snow Moon,

The Full Snow Moon first emerged as if it was the top of a tiny red tennis ball glowing in the distance. It appeared to grow and looked as if it was rising out of Tampa Bay. Its color changed from red, to orange, to yellow, to white as it went higher and higher above the horizon. By the time it was 45 degrees up, the bright moonlight illuminated the city, and beyond where I could see. The moonrise gave me a chance to think about how all people are connected. Every single human on the planet is held down to the earth by gravity, and they are all pulled by the gravity of the moon to a much lesser degree. We are all part of the whole, even if some of us work against other members of the world.

I went home. I had my moon pictures developed, hoping to sell something to my favorite publisher. I finished Thursday, Feb. 28, 2002, and then I turned my calendar. (A big thumbtack holds the calendar on a wall in the computer room (sometimes called Command Central)). Hanging from that thumbtack, too, is a keychain from a northern friend who visited Sharon (my wife)and I some time ago. This keychain has "Jeff" and "Massachusetts" on it, and it has a graphic of a lighthouse.
It hangs right in the middle of the calendar. As a result, this month is "Mach 22," because the "R" of March and the "00" of 2002 are covered. Now, I will tell you about me and Mach 22.

First, it is important to know about Ernst Mach, who lived from 1838 to 1916. "Mach was the first person to realize that if matter traveling through the air moved faster than the speed of sound it drastically altered the quality of the space in which it moved. Mach gave his name to the Mach Number, which expresses the speed of matter relative to the speed of sound at a certain temperature. When supersonic planes travel today, their speed is measured in terms that keep Mach's name alive," according to Online Space Notes. Dictionaries note Mach is in reference to high speed -- for instance, Mach 2 is twice the speed of sound. Mach3, of course, is a Gillette brand of razor that I use.

Depending upon the medium through which any wave of particles pass, like sound and light, the temperature, density, mass and the like influences the speed at which those waves are able to go. Sound needs a medium with particles, like air for instance, to vibrate those particles so that the sound may pass on to some final ear and be heard. Sound cannot pass through outer space. It is not that kind of wave.

Light passes more quickly through outer space than through an atmosphere. Visible light cannot pass through a wall, although sound can pass through a solid object.
As The Moody Blues have sung, "Thinking is the best way to travel." I have decided that I will travel at Mach 22. My definition of this speed is 22 times faster than anything -- even faster than the quickest thought. I won’t vibrate, or radiate anything. I will just go. Go, Jeff, Go! Poof! And then, I am there.

Wow, all that from a few full moons and a keychain hanging on a calendar. Go figure! So, you may say, "Oh that Jeff; where does he come up with this stuff?" I don’t know. I have these fun thoughts. It has been said, "Thinking is the best way to travel." So, I think. Therefore, I travel. Maybe it was to the moon and back. Maybe it was to space. Maybe it was just "out there."

© Jeff M. Hardison 2002
St. Petersburg, Florida, U.S.A.

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