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Moon and Saturn

July 6, 2017

The Moon has a beautiful companion tonight: the planet Saturn. It’s quite close to the lower right of the Moon at nightfall, and looks like a bright golden star. It stays close to the Moon all night long.

The Moon is a dead world. But in centuries past, many thought the Moon had water, air — and life. In the 17th century, for example, German astronomer Johannes Kepler described a world populated by snakelike creatures with wings.

Kepler is one of the pioneers of modern astronomy. He was the first to describe the orbits of the planets mathematically, proving that Earth is not the center of the solar system.

Kepler wrote about an imaginary journey to the Moon in a book called “The Dream,” which was published after his death. Many have described it as the first science-fiction story.

Kepler wrote that Moon creatures lived inside cave-like fortresses built to protect them from the Sun. These creatures were heavier than people, and looked like snakes. Some had wings, but others lived in the water. They rested during the long lunar day — which is equal to 14 Earth days — and were active during the night.

Late in his life, Kepler used a new device to study the lunar surface: the telescope. He thought the lunar craters must have been made by the Moon creatures.

Today, though, we know that the craters were carved by the impacts of mountain-sized boulders long ago. One crater is named for Johannes Kepler — a man who dreamed of a living Moon.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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