Day 139: Moon Mistake

Screen shot 2014-04-08 at 9.11.24 AMLast weekend I caught the short Sky and Telescope feature that often runs on PBS when a program ends before the hour. Tony Flanders is the host and he always does such a nice job of highlighting what is in the sky that week or the next. This past week, the program’s feature was the upcoming total lunar eclipse of April 15th. I was struck by a small error (or at least I thought it was) in an animation that showed the Moon’s orbit. Could it be that they showed the Moon orbiting clockwise from a north polar view at the 2:45 mark? I emailed Sky and Telescope and this morning received a reply from Tony Farmer that reads, “You mean at 2:45, I presume. You’re right; if north is up, the Moon goes around counterclockwise, not clockwise as shown. My assistant has excellent animation skills but not much of a head for astronomy; he often makes errors like this. Usually I catch them, but I guess I missed this one.” My reply“Thanks for the confirmation! My HS astronomy students have been waiting with bated breath for a reply to my email. You are quite gracious in your answer and that allows me to share it with them and also show how adults constructively communicate via social media, etc. We here in PA are hoping for a clear morning on April 15th as you are I am sure.”

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