Moon’s Golden Handle

Observing the  Moon's Golden Handle

If the sky is clear tonight (March 16, 2019), you will have an opportunity to observe an interesting phenomenon known as the Moon’s Golden Handle.

The Sun’s light will strike a mountainous area of the Moon at a shallow angle. The Moon will be in what is known as the waxing gibbous phase. Waxing means that more of it is becoming visible as sunlight increasingly illuminates the surface. Gibbous means that it is not yet a full moon, but it is more than a half moon. At this exact angle, the sunlight will illuminate the Jura Mountain Range, and the mountains will appear as an arc on the upper left side of the Moon’s visible surface. The arc resembles a tiny handle on the side of the Moon, so it has been called the Moon’s Golden Handle.

Galileo (1564-1642) observed this phenomenon as he looked through an early telescope. You can see it with a pair of binoculars. If you have a small telescope, you can get an even better view. The angle of the light gives a unique opportunity to get an idea of what the surface of the Moon is like. Not only does the Moon have mountains, but it has lava flows and numerous craters from bombardment by meteors.

The fact that we can predict when lunar eclipses will take place and when phases of the Moon will occur shows how much precision God has built into His creation of the cosmos. We know when the Moon’s Golden Handle will be visible because we can depend on that precision as we depend on God. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).

–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2019