Moon and Saturn

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Moon and Saturn

Everything has a name, but we seldom spend much time thinking about what most names mean. Today is Monday, for example. It’s the first day of the work week. But the name means “Moon’s day.” In fact, all the days of the week are named for astronomical objects. Some of the names come from old English, while others come from their Scandinavian equivalents.

You might think of the connection to the Moon if you look at tonight’s sky, because the almost-full Moon arcs low across the south. It’s in the sky all night, and casts a brilliant glow across the summer landscape.

Each month’s full Moon has several names of its own. Most of the names were bestowed based on what was happening on Earth at that time of year. In July, for example, thunderstorms were common across parts of the present U.S., summer hay had been harvested, and big game was common. So the Moon was known as the Thunder Moon, Hay Moon, or Elk Moon.

The Moon has a close, bright companion tonight that has an impressive name of its own. The planet Saturn is named for the Roman god of agriculture and plenty, who was honored with one of the most important festivals of the year.

50 years ago tonight, three American astronauts — the crew of Apollo 11 — were preparing to ride a Saturn rocket to the Moon. In their honor, perhaps it’s fitting to add one more title to the list of names for July’s full Moon: the Apollo Moon.

More about Apollo 11 tomorrow.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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