Liberal Arts Blog — Lunar Standstill (“Lunistice”) Why The Moon Has Been Higher In The Sky And Brighter Than Usual

John Muresianu
5 min readJun 12, 2024

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Liberal Arts Blog — Wednesday is the Joy of Science, Engineering, and Technology Day

Today’s Topic — Lunar Standstill (“Lunistice”) why the moon has been higher in the sky and brighter than usual

You may have noticed recently that the moon was higher and brighter than usual in the sky.

This is not an optical illusion. We are at the peak of an 18.6 year lunar cycle at which the moon is northernmost in the sky. The cycle is caused by the fact that the angle of the moon’s orbit around the earth is not the same as that of the earth around the sun (the “ecliptic”).

The divergence is 5.1 degrees. Today, a few more notes.

Have you ever been to Stonehenge (England)? Callanish (Scotland) Chaco Canyon (New Mexico)?

Have you been to the “Sunwheel” on the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) campus set up by astronomer Judith Young in 1999?

Writing this post I was reminded of the saying of mathematician and physicist John von Neumann, Young man, in mathematics, you don’t understand things. You just get used to them.”

Experts please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

ANALOGY- “THE SOLSTICE”: THE SUN’S ALTITUDE IN THE SKY CHANGES WITH THE SEASONS

1. The angle of the sun in the sky is a function of the tilt of the earth’s axis.

2. The tilt of the axis is also the reason for the seasons.

3. “Solstice” means “sun standstill” and “refers to the fact that the Sun’s declination changes little for the approximately 2 weeks around solstice. The sunrise and sunset directions change little over this time as well.”

THE LUNISTICE CYCLE — last peak 2005–2006, current 2024–2025

1. “The Earth spins about axis A and orbits the sun around the solar ecliptic C (the plane of the earth’s orbit around the sun).”

2. “The plane of the Moon’s orbit around the Earth B is inclined by 5.14% to the ecliptic and the degree of declination relative to the equatorial plane D gradually varies approximately 10 degrees from from 18 degrees 18 0 to 28 degrees 36 0 and back every 18.61 years (closed blue circles on the plot).

CALENDAR SITES AROUND THE WORLD THAT MARK THE PEAKS — Stonehenge (England), Callanish (Scotland), Chaco Canyon (New Mexico), U Mass (Amherst)

1. Stonehenge (above) “Located at a latitude of 51 degrees in England, is a 5,000 year old solar and lunar calendar and observatory. The stone locations and sightlines indicate summer solstice sunrise, winter solstice sunset, southernmost moonrise, and northernmost moonset. At the latitude of Stonehenge, the angle between the winter solstice sunset na southernmost moonrise directions is exactly 90 degrees.”

2. Callanish (Scotland) also about 5,000 years old. At a latitude of 58 degrees. “At major standstill, the full Moon near summer solstice reaches only 3.5 degrees above the horizon from Callanish and is viewed through the stones.”

3. Chaco Canyon (New Mexico) “is a 1,000 year old solar and lunar calendar, located high (400 feet) atop Fajada Butte, inaccessible except by ropes. This site was discovered in 1977 by Anna Sofaer. At noon on the solstices and equinoxes, a dagger of light (called the “Sun Dagger”) pierces a spiral petroglyph carved into the rock face of the cliff. The same spiral petroglyph has been shown to also mark the major and minor standstills of the moon.

The Sun Dagger is accepted by archaeoastronomy worldwide as the best example of a culture keeping track of the Sun and also the 18.6 year cycle of the Moon.”

NB: At the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, there is a “Sunwheel” set up by Professor Judith Young (1952–2014) in 1999. Her vision was to “teach people to pay attention to the sky and help them understand what they see, help enrich people’s lives thought deepening their connection fo the Universe, build Sunwheels in National Parks, build sunwheels on University Campuses, build a sunwheel in every community.”

Major Lunar Standstill — Moon Teachings for the Masses

WHY IS THE MOON SO HIGH IN THE SKY?

Lunar standstill — Wikipedia

Judith Young (astronomer) — Wikipedia

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

My spin — then periodically review, re-rank, and exchange your list with those you love. I call this the “Orion Exchange” because seven is about as many as any human can digest at a time. Game?

A LINK TO THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED BY THEME:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

ATTACHMENT BELOW:

#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, (11/17/20)

#3 Israel-Palestine Handout

NB: Palestine Orion (Decision) — let’s exchange Orions, let’s find Rumi’s field (“Beyond all ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. Meet me there” Rumi, 13 century Persian Sufi mystic)

YOUR TURN

Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to science, engineering, or technology.

Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to science and engineering.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.