Man in the Moon

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Man in the Moon

Our brains can see things that aren’t there. They connect points and shapes to create “pictures.” So we might see a dragon in some puffs of clouds, “canals” on the surface of Mars, or a scorpion in the stars.

One of the most persistent pictures is the “man in the Moon” — a face created from features on the lunar surface. Stories about the man in the Moon — or, in some cases, the woman in the Moon — go back centuries, from cultures around the planet.

In China, for example, the face represented the goddess Chang’e. She was stranded on the Moon after taking too much of a potion that made her immortal. In Germany, the man was a giant who poured water from the Moon to create high tides. And in parts of Europe, the man was banished to the Moon after he stole from a neighbor or worked on the Sabbath.

Today, inns and pubs from Tokyo to the Isle of Wight are called Man in the Moon. It’s been the title of several books. And in the first science-fiction movie, in 1902, a rocket from Earth slammed into the man’s “eye,” with messy results.

The features that make up the man’s face are a combination of dark, smooth volcanic plains, and lighter areas that are more jumbled. You can look for the face yourself the next couple of nights because the Moon is full. And it has a bright companion: The star Antares is to the lower left of the Moon this evening, but almost touching the Moon tomorrow night.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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