Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Refuting a Lunar Misconception - by Brad

I am not sure why this popped into my head, but this morning I recalled a question that I wanted to verify. You may have heard the same question, "What is the only man-made object visible from the Moon (with the naked eye)?" The standard answer to this question is the Great Wall of China.

Well, according to NASA, the Great Wall may be visible from low-orbit space, but definitely not from the Moon. The NASA article quotes Alan Bean, an Apollo 12 astronaut, as saying, "The only thing you can see from the Moon is a beautiful sphere, mostly white, some blue and patches of yellow, and every once in a while some green vegetation. No man-made object is visible at this scale."

So there you go. It sounds like this claim was first published in 1938 in some sort of "believe-it-or-not" book. If you don't find the NASA article interesting, there is a better article about the Great Wall and its visibility from the Moon. This article states that, "from the Moon, even the continents are barely visible."

Apparently, the answer to this question has even been published erroneously on Trivial Pursuit cards!

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