Mt. Palomar Observatory. Astronomers today confirmed what amateur moon gazers have been saying since late August: the moon is noticeably paler than it was before the total solar eclipse of Aug. 21. Offering an explanation devoid of scientific jargon, a spokesman for the observatory at Palomar explained that, "in simple terms, the moon suffered a sun burn."
"During a total solar eclipse the moon is bombarded by molecules WITH A temperature to hot for our instruments to measure. The surface of the moon is essentially fried or blistered. When seen on the first night following the eclipse, the moon looks less shiny to those on earth. That condition will gradually improve, bringing the moon back to its full brightness after several months. Any life on the moon, whether human or as yet undiscovered native plant or animal life, could only survive such an eclipse by remaining on the dark side of the orb facing earth during the eclipse."
This phenomenon had been suspected after previous solar eclipses and has inspired several popular songs and stories. Lyricists and fiction writers have linked a pale moon to romance, unaware that the paleness if the result of an unsurvivable natural condition. About the time of the solar eclipse in 1938, as an example, Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington composed "The Nearness of You," with the opening line "It's not the pale moon that excites me...."
The Palomar astronomers predict that the color of the moon will return to normal by the beginning of the new year.