Stop Saying “Dark Side of the Moon”

Phases of the Moon

There is something very enigmatic about one hemisphere of the moon: it is obscured.

As the Moon orbits the Earth, it also rotates around its axis, and it does this in such a way that one hemisphere of the moon always points toward the Earth. The other hemisphere of the Moon is permanently pointed away from the Earth, so nobody on Earth can see it.

Because it is hidden from view, the landscape on the far side of the Moon remained unmapped until people sent spacecrafts to orbit the Moon and take pictures. That was in the ‘60s.

The phases of the Moon happen because of the changing relative positions of the Earth, the Moon and the Sun. This is a different phenomenon, but a lot of people confuse the two and wrongly think that half of the Moon’s surface is permanently lit by the Sun and the other half is in eternal darkness.

What interests me is the source of this confusion. I think it has to do with the fact that the obscured side of the Moon doesn’t have as catchy a name. If it did, this article would be a lot easier to write. “The obscured side of the Moon” doesn’t really roll off the tongue. “The far side of the Moon” has an okay rhythm, but it sounds more like the title of a Gary Larson book than a phenomenon of astronomy. And I’ve never heard anybody use either of those phrases. I have heard of an album called Dark Side of the Moon. I think that phrase is closer to the top of people’s mental stacks, so they use it instead. This is where the confusion begins.

So, stop saying “dark side of the Moon”… unless you are referring to the side of the Moon that the Sun is not currently illuminating… or you are talking about Pink Floyd.

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