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Mack Williams: This Super Moon was a ‘Great One’

Sometimes there’s “hoopla-worthy” hoopla about astronomical happenings (total solar eclipse, Aug. 21st, 2017); then there’s “hoopla-hype” of something that’s just a matter of distance, like the recent November Super Moon. But it does serve to remind people of the celestial “Late Show” available without cable hook-up.

Some close approaches of celestial bodies are more exciting (I’m not currently arching my eyebrows repeatedly and twiddling a cigar back-and-forth in my fingers like Groucho Marx). During the close approach of the planet Mars in 2003, my 10-inch reflector telescope revealed over-all surface features resembling a cat in mid-leap!

Dr. Percival Lowell sat with eyeball almost frozen to telescope eyepiece (no computer monitor and cozy room  then) and drew “canals” he saw on Mars; but the first Mars space probe’s pictures disproved him, confirming: “If you want to see something, you’ll see it!” Some other Mars “sightings”remind me of people seeing Jesus’ face on a cheese sandwich or potato chip (consumption of both; however, does provide calories with which to do Jesus’ work on earth).

I really wasn’t looking for a giant cat, but that’s what I saw; so perhaps the ancient Martians, like ancient Egyptians, revered the cat goddess, Bastet (fantasy flight). When faced with  images made of light and darkness, people normally and mentally form an image of “something.” and sometimes “put a face on it.” That’s how we came up with the “The man the moon” and some of the things seen in photographic “orbs.”

Fortunately, this Super Moon wasn’t so close that the “man in the moon” was resolved into its individual craters and dark, smooth, cold lava “seas.” If that close, low tides would plummet and high tides would be so severe that beach houses would have to be made watertight and equipped with periscopes and submarine snorkels.

While in somewhat of an astronomical rant, I must bring up the oft, too-repeated Facebook post: “On such-and-such night, go out, look up in the sky and you’ll see the planet Mars appearing as large as the Moon.”

This makes absolutely no “Copernican-sense!” In fact, I once heard another more logical “astronomical” statement: “Go outside on a sunny day, bend over, put your head between your knees, look straight up, and you’ll see ‘Uranus’,” probably a variation of that awful joke C. Thomas Howell’s character made to Elliot at the school bus stop in “E.T.”(1982).

If you ever see Mars appearing as big as the Moon ( and your vision is 20/20, without astigmatism), don’t just “duck-and-cover”(like we did at Granite Quarry School in the Cold War); but go to the deepest part of Carlsbad Caverns! And if the movie “Journey to the Center of the Earth”(1958) were a documentary and James Mason and Pat Boone ( their characters) had really been to Earth’s core; then, in a paraphrase: “Boldly go where they had gone before!” (but with planetary collision, that probably wouldn’t be enough).

There’s the November, 2016 Super Moon’s heavenly light, brightest in 70 years; but that light also reaches the ground. Newspaper story titles can be read by the full moon’s light, but under “Super Moonlight,”  maybe even the fine print of health insurance policies can be interpreted (well, not “interpreted,” no hope for that, just “read”). Nocturnal creatures, scurrying across the forest floor’s leaf litter hadn’t been illuminated like this since their ancestors 70 years ago (many “begats” in their short-lived cases). In addition to even more fully revealing a secretive mouse, Super Moonlight might reach further into the cavity of an old, rotting stump to reveal the chewing or sleeping grubs and beetles there.

This Super Moon, November, 2016 was bigger than any I’d ever seen, and brought back a memory from my 1950s TV-enriched childhood on the Old Concord Road ( TV was more enriching, THEN).

It was a memory of something great, or rather, the face of “someone” great and large depicted over the face of the man-in-the-moon. For on that recent night, the extra-large November Super Moon seemed to me to be wearing a New York City bus driver’s cap. That same face, the face of the one always threatening to knock somebody “Bang! Zoom! to the moon!” was up there, grinning “chubbily”and “dimply,” just as depicted on the lead-in credits to every episode of “The Honeymooners.”

Going back inside, and just prior to closing the door on that “Super Moonlit” night, I imagined the sound of an orchestra playing “Melancholy Serenade” for many a “Poor Soul” everywhere.

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