We Approach The Moon-a Magnificent Spectacle
From: To Mars Via The Moon
When we had finished our supper John remarked, "Professor, I am a little
mystified in regard to our present position. We have started on a voyage
to Mars, but up to the present I have not seen even a glimpse of the
planet to-night. How is that?"
"Hear, hear," chimed in M'Allister. "Mon, I've been bothering over the
very same thing ever since we started, and wondering where yon little
red star has gone to!"
"The question is very soon answered," I replied: "it is a case of 'the
Spanish fleet you cannot see because it's not in sight.' Mars does not
rise above our late horizon until about a quarter-past ten, and was
therefore hidden by the earth whilst we were out on the platform; so we
could not expect to see it then, but if we look out now no doubt we
shall see it."
We went over to a window, and I pointed out the planet, remarking,
"There it is; that little red star is the world which we hope to land
upon in a few weeks' time. You will notice that it does not lie quite in
the direction in which we are moving, for I must tell you that we are
not on our course to Mars at present. I thought we should all be glad to
have a look at the moon from a close point of view now we have the
chance, and M'Allister will remember that I gave him instructions just
before supper to direct our course so as to head off the moon in its
"Quite right, Professor, so you did," said M'Allister; "but I did not
fully understand the reason of your instructions."
"But," interrupted John, "are we not going rather out of our way?"
"Yes, that is so, John," I replied, "but a few thousand miles more or
less will make very little difference to us at the rate we shall travel,
especially if you allow for the fact that the earth and moon are both
moving nearly in the direction we wish to go. Besides, I hope to
approach sufficiently near the moon to enable us to add a little more
power to our store, so it will not all be lost time; and we can also use
the moon to give us a fresh start. But for the fact that it would be
best for us to reach the moon before it has waned to any large extent we
might have delayed our start for many days, and, whilst considerably
shortening our journey, still arrived at Mars on the date we have
Our chronometer was housed in a substantial non-magnetic cubicle, with a
very thick glass window, in order to protect it from the magnetism and
electricity which pervaded our vessel. On looking at the chronometer I
found the time was nearly eleven o'clock. We had, therefore, been nearly
two hours on our journey and had travelled some three hundred miles,
mostly in an upward direction from the earth; so if there were any of
the earth's atmosphere around our vessel it must be of the most extreme
tenuity, and we might safely increase our speed.
I accordingly gave M'Allister the order to switch on the power
gradually, up to our full speed, and it was not long before we were
rushing through space at the rate of over eighty-three thousand miles an
hour. At this rate, as I told them, we might expect to reach the moon in
a little over sixteen hours, allowing for loss in slackening down at the
latter part of the journey.
"It so happens," I said, "that the moon's present distance from the
earth is rather less than 226,000 miles, being its nearest approach to
the earth during this month."
John at once asked, "How it happened that, if the moon were only this
comparatively short distance away from us, I reckoned it would require
over sixteen hours to reach it at the tremendous speed we were now
moving"; and added, "I thought we should be there in about three hours."
"Ah, John," I replied, "you have forgotten that the earth is rushing
along and carrying the moon with it nearly as fast as we are travelling,
and you are reckoning as though they were standing still all the time.
As a matter of fact we are only gaining on the moon by a little over
fifteen thousand miles an hour, and we must allow for slackening speed
long before we reach the moon, so we cannot expect to cover the distance
in less than sixteen hours. You will see that if we did not travel
faster than the moon is moving away from us we should never catch it up
"That explains it all, Professor," said John, "and I must confess I felt
rather puzzled at the length of time required to reach the moon, so was
altogether out in my calculations."
After we had been proceeding at this rate for nearly two hours,
M'Allister came hurrying into our compartment in a state of great
"Professor," he exclaimed with a gasp, "something's gone wrong
altogether, and I don't know what to do!"
"Gone wrong!" I repeated. "Why, what is the matter?"
"Mon," he answered, "everything is the matter! A while back we were
rushing towards the moon, but just now when I looked ahead there wasn't
any moon to be seen. I happened to go round to the other window and look
back and, my word! if there wasn't the moon right behind us! We have
been travelling so very fast that we must have run past it without
knowing we had done so."
"Oh, we could not possibly have done that!" I exclaimed.
"But there's more to come, Professor," continued M'Allister. "When I
last saw the moon it was nearly full and not so very much bigger than
when we saw it at starting, but now this moon behind us is an enormous
thing; yet it is only a new moon, or rather what folks call a new moon
with the old moon in its arms!"
"Oh, now I understand," I replied. "It's all right, M'Allister, and you
can make your mind quite easy. You were not able to see the moon when
you first looked through the window because it was nearly in a direct
line with your course, and therefore just hidden by the prow of the
vessel. It's still ahead of us and still nearly full: if you had looked
out of the conning tower or used the periscope you would have seen it."
"Heh, Professor," he interjected, "I know I couldn't see the moon if it
was straight ahead of our course, but then what about that enormous new
moon that's behind us? I saw that right enough."
"That enormous new moon, M'Allister, is only our own little world which
we left a few hours ago," I replied.
He stared at me as though bewildered, and after pondering a while,
exclaimed, "Losh, mon, you surely don't mean to say that our own little
world changes about in the same way as the moon does-sometimes new and
Here John interposed. "Yes, M'Allister, you can take it from me that it
is just what our world does do. I think you are aware that, like the
moon, our world simply reflects the light it receives from the sun, and
does not shine by its own light. So one side is light and the other side
is dark, according to its position in regard to the sun. From our
present position we are only able to see a small portion of the lighted
side, the remainder being dark except for the moonlight shining upon it,
so it looks just like a large new moon. It really serves as a moon to
our moon, but its phases follow each other in reverse order. Thus, when
the moon is full, the earth's disc is all dark, and when the moon is in
its first quarter the earth, as seen from there, would be in its third
quarter, and so on through all its phases. Do you follow all that,
"Well, mon," replied M'Allister, with a sly grin, "I've just heard you
say it; but"-and here he turned to me-"is it all correct, Professor?"
"Yes, quite correct," I answered, greatly amused at his distrust of
"M'Allister, you're like the Apostle Thomas," commented John, evidently
a little nettled; "so you really doubted my word after all!"
"Heh, mon," he answered, "you're not the Professor, you know; and I
thought maybe you were pulling my leg!"
"Well," laughed John, "perhaps you will get your leg pulled the next
time I condescend to give you a lesson in astronomy!"
After this little spar between my two colleagues we proceeded to the
machine-room, which John and I carefully inspected, to make sure that
all was working properly; and having satisfied ourselves on this point,
we gave M'Allister his instructions for the 'night'; though of course
there was no night now.
Mounting the steps of the conning turret, we then had a look at the
earth, from which we were so rapidly moving away. It appeared about
fifteen degrees in angular diameter, showing that we had travelled some
thirty thousand miles from it.
The full moon, as seen from the earth, appears just about half a degree
in diameter-sometimes a little more, sometimes rather less; so the
earth was apparently about thirty times the diameter the moon usually
appears to us. It was only a thin crescent where lighted by the sun, but
well might M'Allister describe it as "enormous," for it appeared still
larger to him when he saw it some thirty minutes earlier and mistook it
for the new moon.
When we came down again John, very thoughtfully, said to me, "Professor,
you have had a very long, tiring day; and when we reach the moon, we
shall probably stay up several hours to look at it, so you had better
take as long a sleep as possible. There will be no need to break your
rest, for I'm the younger, and will get about by six o'clock, and
relieve M'Allister, who can go on all right up to then, as he has three
hours less work to his credit than we have to-day. If your advice is
needed, I will call you at once; but, no doubt, we shall do very well
till we arrive within a few thousand miles of the moon. We will slacken
speed very gradually from about two o'clock in the afternoon, so as not
to approach the orb too rapidly."
I had, indeed, as he said, had a long, tiring day, having risen soon
after four o'clock yesterday morning, and it was now nearly 2 "A.M." by
terrestrial time; so, thanking him for his kind consideration, I bade
them both "good night," and gladly proceeded to bed, John following soon
He was as good as his word, and actually allowed me to sleep on until
nearly half-past three in the "afternoon," when he roused me, and,
having dressed, I snatched a hasty meal and then at once proceeded to
the machine-room, where my first act was to look at the moon. There it
was below us, but still slightly ahead of the Areonal; and its
magnificence was so overpowering, that it almost seemed to take my
breath away, although I was fairly well prepared for the sight. Many
times when viewing it through the telescope I have almost lost myself in
admiration of the sublime spectacle it presents; but what I had seen on
those occasions could not be compared with the splendour of the view now
Here, without any atmosphere to dim or otherwise mar the view, the
brilliancy of the lighted portion of the disc was absolutely dazzling,
whilst the extreme delicacy of its varied tints and the subtle nuances
of colour, which we now saw to perfection, were most charming and
delightful to any one endowed with artistic perceptions. We were only
about four thousand miles from this beautiful orb, its angular diameter
measuring about thirty degrees, or nearly sixty times its apparent
diameter, as seen from the earth; thus it appeared to cover a very large
circle on the sky.
John and M'Allister told me they had both been gazing upon the splendid
scene for a very long time with astonishment and delight equal to my
own; and the latter went on to say, "Professor, did you ever see such a
sight in your life? I never did, and could never have imagined that
anything could be so beautiful! Mon, it's worth many a journey like this
to see such a bonnie thing!"
"You are quite right in saying that, M'Allister," I answered; "it is,
indeed, a grand and marvellous sight! I can assure you that when I have
been observing the moon in its full and glowing splendour, it has often
seemed to me the most exquisitely beautiful object I have ever looked
upon; yet now it appears far more beautiful than when seen through the
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