Seeing the Moon from the poles
Q: I'm going to Barrow, Alaska this June. The sun shines all the time then. Will I be able to see the moon? How about
A: Yes, you can see the Moon fairly low in the sky above Barrow for much of a June day.
[Jack Williams] Antarctica's Ross Sea, summer in January
In the far northland, the Sun shines almost the entire month of June because the North Pole tilts 23 Ĺ degrees toward the Sun
then. Six months later, our planet orbits around to the opposite side of the Sun. Then, in December, the North Pole tilts away
from the Sun and 24-hour darkness shrouds the far north. At that time, Antarctica points sunward and becomes "the Land of the Midnight Sun."
The North Pole tilts toward the Sun in June, and the South Pole, of course, points in the opposite direction. Throughout June: it's night in Antarctica and day in
Barrow. On the night of the Full Moon (June 6), the Sun, Earth, and Moon line up with the Earth in the middle. Earth's night side faces the Moon's day side
and vice versa. That's why the Full Moon is up all night in Antarctica and you won't see it at all in Barrow this June, says Richard Teske, astronomer professor
emeritus at the University of Michigan.
Another polar treat: the crescent Moon stays in the June day skies for days. "Look for the 24-hour crescent Moon shortly before or after the time of New Moon
[June 21st] when our satellite is close to the Sun in the sky," says Teske.
The Moon rises and sets farther north as it wanes and the New Moon approaches. "Finally the Sun chases the Crescent Moon around and around in the sky as
the two draw closer together," says Teske. The Moon will rise on the 19th and not set again until the 25th of June.
A couple of days after the New Moon, you can see the crescent again, and the process repeats in reverse order: The south-moving Crescent Moon chases the
Sun around in the sky as it fattens and lags farther behind the Sun. On the 25th, the Moon again sets and then rises and sets a few days before sinking altogether
out of sight to become Antarctica's Full Moon.
In Barrow, you can see the Moon in December but only at night. Night lasts 24 hours a day in December. At the time of the Full Moon in December, the Moon
never sets in Barrow and you can't see it in Antarctica at all.
(Answered by April Holladay, science correspondent, June 13, 2001)
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