Page 34 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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22
JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
no longer — as it is on the first night — perfectly full, it still looks
so to the naked eye, and a nearly full moon when low in the sky
can seem big indeed . Much less accu ra te in Y ehoshua’s
description, however, is the simultaneity of sunset and moonrise.
In fact, already on the first night of Passover the full moon rises
in Israel, as it does throughout the northern hemisphere, later
than the setting of the sun. According to
The Nautical Almanac,
for
example, on April 14, 1976, which was the first night of Passover
that year
(A Late Divorce
is set in the middle to late seventies), at a
latitude of 33 degrees north (that of Acre, where Kaminka’s mur­
der takes place), sunset occurred at 18:28 and moonrise at 18:48.
On the second night of Passover, moreover, the difference is
much greater: in 1976 it was exactly an hour-and-a-half, the sun
setting at 18:29 and the moon rising at 19:59. Thus, the conjunc­
tion of the two events in Yehoshua’s novel is an out-and-out im­
possibility.*
Nearly a year later, while translating Amos Oz’s
A Perfect Peace
* Although the moon when full is at an angle of 180 degrees to the sun, measured
through the center o f the earth, so that seemingly one should set precisely as
the other is rising, an observer in Jerusalem or New York will always see the
full moon rise later, the exact difference in time between the two events vary­
ing with the latitude and time o f year. The reasons for this is that, as the moon
is both smaller than the earth and much closer to it than the sun, its rays at
moonrise strike the earth more obliquely than the sun’s. Thus, in the diagram
below, when the sun is seen setting by an observer at A the full moon is seen
rising at B, and will not be observed to rise at A until the earth has completed
several more degrees o f its revolution, as indicated by the direction o f the ar­
row. On the following night, when the moon has begun to wane, it will be ob­
served to rise at C when the sun is setting at A, and the observer at A will have
to wait much longer to see it.
A B