August 20, 2004

"Make haste, make haste, my mirry men all, / Our guid ship sails the morn."
"O say na sae, my master dear, / For I fear a deadly storm."

"Late late yestre'en I saw the new moon / Wi' the auld moon in her arm,
And I fear, I fear, my dear master, / That we will come to harm."

- Sir Patrick Spens, traditional ballad

Different variants of this effect have the horns of the new crescent moon going almost all the way around the moon, but always the dark side must be visible. An old piece of folklore ties this sight to upcoming storm. I saw it yesterday, and there were storms in the region, although not upon me, just then.

The thin crescent of new moon was to the west when I saw it, with the setting sun a few degrees to one side. The dark side of the moon would have been illumined solely by earthlight. The greater the cloud cover, the more brightly the planet shines (Venus being a case in point), and thus the more light available to be reflected by the dark side of a satellite. In England, the source of this ballad, weather patterns generally travel from west to east.

Would the increase in cloud-reflected illumination catalysed by storms just to the west be sufficient to bring this piece of folklore to accurate predictive life?

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