Adventures in Celestial Mechanics


My Adventures in Celestial Mechanics project is based on my quest to capture each full moon of the year, at moonrise or moonset, from somewhere in the Maine landscape. The project name derives from the delightfully-named textbook (written by my professor, Dr. Szebehely) that captured the beauty and majesty of the equations underlying orbital mechanics. For moonrise of the full moon results from an important phase of the celestial dance between the Earth, Sun, and Moon – when all three bodies are aligned and one can stand on the Earth with the sunset at your back and moon rising right in front of you. (Moonset results from a similar alignment at sunrise).

The fascinating names of each full moon, each rooted in the history of the land and its peoples, provide further inspiration for my endeavors.

Moonrise and the cycles of the moon happen endlessly, month after month, year after year, and their repetitive nature results in many becoming numb to the magic of the moon hanging above. With this project, I hope to reignite in viewers a passion and interest in the passage of the moon through the sky and its importance to peoples throughout history, just as this project has reignited those same passions in myself.

In my aerospace engineering program, the workload was relentless with homework in each class every night. Notwithstanding that, Dr. Szebehely had a long-running joke where he refused to give us any homework on the night of a full moon as he would instead tell us with his thick Hungarian accent: “No homework tonight. It is full moon. You have more important things to do.” I’m not sure I did then, but I certainly do now – every full moon now finds me out there with tripod and camera, seeking out the rising or setting moon.

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