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Thursday, April 17, 2014

FLASH, no bang?

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I have not been able to walk as regularly as I had been. Some of this is conditions and timing, but some of it is sheer laziness. If I can once get into "PT Uniform" my inner drill sergeant will make me do the trip, but of late making me get into "PT Uniform" is becoming harder and harder.

Even so, I do get in some walks. And sometimes things happen on the walks.

On one particular walk I was heading West on the final "outbound" leg (the path takes me West, then South, then the longest leg of East, followed by North, then West again, South again, and finally East again to get to the apartment complex). As I started up the slight incline I was suddenly hit in the eyes by a brilliant flash of white light from above and to my immediate front. There are no "artificial" light sources in that direction normally, and my brain immediately jumped to the conclusion of "aerial explosion." There was no "bang," at least not immediately associated with the flash, which meant the explosion was a considerable distance away. It was however a very large and very bright flash.

As I was beginning to wonder what was going on, all in the space of a few seconds and perhaps one or two more steps, my eyes rose to the sky to ascertain what was going on (possibilities included an aircraft exploding, or piece of space debris breaking up in the atmosphere, or some odd form of ball lightning) I learned why the flash had not been accompanied by a bang, and any bang would be a long time in coming.

I would imagine that photons impacting the moon's surface would be considered as exploding before they rebounded off and headed towards Earth, but even if you could hear photon impacts on Earth itself, you would not hear them through the void of space from the moon.

That brilliant flash was simply the Sun's light reflected off of a full moon. The rotation of the Earth, the Moon's orbital movement, and my direction of march combined with the slight upward incline of my path at that point had resulted in the brim of my cap rising just enough to catch the bottom edge of the moonlight.

It was a rather embarrassing moment for an old Infantryman to discover just how out of touch I had become with my surroundings. I was utterly unaware that the Moon was full as I set out on my walk. I used to be much more in tune with what went on around me, after all, in my job specialty my life could have very well depended on it.