Take a look at the sky tonight as the New Moon rises. You just might see the Earth reflected in a phenomenon NASA scientists call Earthshine.
Earthshine – the glow over the unlit portion of the tiny sliver of a crescent Moon – occurs when the Earth and Moon and the Earth and Sun are perfectly aligned in their orbital dances.
Earthshine tends to be brightest from April to June, NASA says, though it occurs at other times of the year. NASA explains:
“ Earth’s reflected light (albedo) is brightest in the Northern Hemisphere spring with a second, slightly smaller peak in the Southern Hemisphere spring. Satellite measurements of energy reflected from the Arctic provide a picture of why earthshine peaks in the spring.
"During this period, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun and winter snow and ice are still on the ground in the higher latitudes. Because snow and ice reflect more light than vegetation or water, the spring is brighter than the summer or autumn, when there is much less snow and ice. During the winter, the Arctic receives very little sunlight and reflects less light. Clouds and sea ice contribute to the peak in the Southern Hemisphere.”
Earthshine is sometimes referred to as the “Da Vinci Glow” because 16th century Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo Da Vinci was the first to solve its riddle, using his vast imagination. He died 24 years before Copernicus’ sun-centered theory on the solar system was published in 1543.
Centuries later, Rush lyricist Neil Peart waxed poetic about Earthshine in a song of the same title on the “Vapor Trails” album.
If the skies are clear where you’re at, the view should be spectacular tonight and over the next several nights when the Moon is still a slim crescent.
- The Moon is a powerful force. What about it inspires you?