It would be an understatement to say the moon has made its influence felt in practically all aspects of cultures around the world throughout history.
One man who became moonstruck when he witnessed men land on the moon is the guest speaker at Nanaimo Astronomy Society’s next meeting.
Randy Enkin, president of the Victoria Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, will share his love for Luna during his presentation ‘Selenophile or Lunatic? Thirty Years of Observing and Loving the Moon.’
Enkin avidly followed the Apollo lunar exploration missions and became smitten with the moon on July 20, 1969, the day astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin landed in the Sea of Tranquility.
“It’s funny. I didn’t notice it for a while that it was this passion of mine. It just when I was putting all these things that I do together that I realized that’s kind of a unifying passion,” Enkin said. “In 1969 I really was taken by the moon shot. It grabbed all my attention. I spent all my time paying attention to that. I figured at the time I’d become an astronomer. All my other friends wanted to be astronauts, but I thought it was the people on the ground who were the really cool ones.”
Enkin said when he started sketching the moon in 1990, he started making a series of simple observations and writing in his observation journal what percentage of the moon’s surface was illuminated. The observations were the basis for his calculation of the lunar month.
“It makes me think of the Babylonians who knew so much about astronomy and they could predict eclipses and things,” he said. “I’ve worked out, with a really, really simple measurement, the duration of the lunar month to within three minutes of what astronomers say it is.”
Enkin, a geophysicist, said he likes projects that allow him to “pull signal out of noisy data.”
He has also started using a telescope, instead of just making observations with the naked eye, and sketching the details he sees on the lunar surface.
“The more you observe, the more you observe,” he said. “There’s this wonderful thing. If you spend an hour looking at a small part of anything – every artist knows this, but I’m not an artist – you pay real attention to anything, in my case the moon, and you just learn more and more about it and it’s a great feeling.”
Enkin knows the surface of the moon so well the Royal Canadian Mint consults with him when it mints coins with images of the moon on them to ensure accuracy.
“I’m getting a little bit of a reputation, which really, I find very funny, but somebody has to do it. It just happens to be me now,” he said.
Enkin is also one of 27 people who have submitted full dossiers to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Isabel Williamson Lunar Observing Program since it was started in 2006. Enkin’s dossier is composed of his sketches and observation notes.
In 2014, he started Enkin’s Daily Moon, in which he searches for moon-related images from photographers, astronomers and artists online and post an image each day on Facebook and Instagram. Some of the most recent photos on the sites are Enkin’s, which he took while doing scientific work aboard the hydrographic survey vessel Canadian Coast Guard Ship Vector.
The moon, Enkin said, is one of mankind’s unifying symbols.
“Every culture in every age pays attention to this object and I love that sense of connection,” he said.
Enkin speaks to the Nanaimo Astronomy Society on Thursday, Nov. 25, at 7 p.m. Non-members are welcome to attend one meeting as a guest by visiting the society’s website at www.nanaimoastronomy.com.