We’ve all heard of the “Man in the Moon,” although there are probably very few of us who have really taken a good look the features of our planetary satellite that are the source of this bit of folklore. For the curious, the Man in the Moon is what appears to be a face on the surface of the moon. And what a huge face it is, apparently, since it’s visible from Earth and the moon is more than a quarter-million miles away. But there’s not really a face way up there, is there?
No SpaceX Contract Needed
Luckily, you won’t need to voyage across the vastness of space to explain the existence of the Man in the Moon to kids (or whoever’s wondering). All you’ll need is a set of dominoes, a table, and a flashlight. Oh, and this handy dandy Demo Science science demo blog, of course. *a-wink*
First, stand up at least eight dominoes on the table. They don’t need to be in any sort of pattern, nor is there a prescribed distance apart or anything like that. Just set ‘em up all willy nilly. You can make stacks of dominoes, if so inclined, to change things up a bit. You can use as many dominoes as you want, really, as long as your arrangement doesn’t ultimately create a vision-obscuring, light-blocking wall.
Then, smash all the lights out with a hammer and use that same hammer to nail sheets of plywood up over the windows. (Or, if you’re boring, just turn the lights off and draw the curtains/blinds/shades.) Once it’s good and dark in the room, fire up your flashlight and hold it up about a foot behind the dominoes, at an angle pointing down toward the table.
You’ll see a distinct pattern of light and shadow on the table. Slowly move your flashlight parallel to the nearest edge of the table and observe how this pattern changes. Do any interesting or “familiar” shapes appear?
Shadows Not Faces
Unfortunately, there is not actually a face on the surface of the moon, naturally occurring or otherwise. As this demonstration proved, sometimes things, like shadows, can look like other things, like faces. And this often leads to fun and/or interesting popular myths.
Like the dark outlines the dominoes created on the tabletop, the Man in the Moon is naught but a grouping of shadows. The shadows are thrown by the mountains of the moon’s highland regions, which block sunlight from the satellite’s flat plains. That these shadows just happen to look like a giant face is merely a coincidence.
…or is it? Conspiracy theories are welcome in the comments section.