If you believe in my man in the moon...
March 13, 2012 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Is the man in the moon I see the same as everyone else?

I've always been a bit confused as to the face--is there more than one? The one I always see is a three-quarters head shot of a man with kind of thick wavy hair, facing to the right. The other image is more vague, a roughly ape or gorilla-looking face that takes up the whole moon.

What is the "official" man in the moon?
posted by zardoz to Science & Nature (18 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It depends on where you are and where you're from.
posted by Mercaptan at 6:38 AM on March 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

....I'm not sure there is "one official image." In fact, some cultures believe it's not a man, but a rabbit.

Wikipedia has a cool overview of the topic if you're interested.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:39 AM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Man in the moon, on today's prescient IO9.
posted by bonehead at 6:40 AM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

How about you take a pic of the moon, print two copies and have you and a friend trace the face each of you see with pencil?
posted by 3FLryan at 6:48 AM on March 13, 2012

I always see a rabbit on the moon. (although my rabbit has a different shape, as if it is looking left and the ears are in the top left quadrant)
posted by Vaike at 8:10 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, never saw a man, but definitely see the rabbit. However, my wife is just the opposite.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:13 AM on March 13, 2012

I believe there's an Italian tradition that there's a picture of a kiss on the moon. I see it as a female face to the right facing slightly back, male face in the background facing forward, but I don't know whether that's the canonical view.
posted by Segundus at 8:13 AM on March 13, 2012

I always see a t-rex in the moon, so obviously YMMV.
posted by yasaman at 8:23 AM on March 13, 2012

I've lived in California all my life, and vaguely remember noticing a face in the moon once or twice in my childhood. But in college I lived in South Africa for six months, and boy the Rabbit in the moon was clear as day to me there; that's all I could "see" in the moon then. Haven't ever seen it since I've been back in California.

Although the rabbit I used to see is not the rabbit pictured in the links above. I saw the saw rabbit Vaike describes - crouching, facing the left, ears in the upper left corner. Actually, if you flipped the blank moon picture on wikipedia upsidedown, you can see it.
posted by Squee at 9:01 AM on March 13, 2012

I've always been a bit confused as to the face--is there more than one?

There none, actually, so go for it. See what you wish.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:03 AM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've seen a man's face and a rabbit. But not the man they outline or the rabbit that they're pointing out on the wikipedia article. The man's face I see is different and harder to describe and the rabbit is more like Vaike describes, crouching and facing to the left. I grew up in California if that makes a difference.

I guess it's like those ink-blot tests, you see what you see and everyone else sees something different.
posted by patheral at 9:10 AM on March 13, 2012

The human mind, influenced by culture, is predisposed to interpret any set of three marks in any orientation as a face. In the absence of one or more such marks, the mind cheerfully fills in the missing elements. Presented with a shining disc in the sky with any sort of markings already on it, the mind cheerfully supplies the entire face.

To all psychological intents, yeah, there's a face there, but although through the expirement suggested by3FLryan above you could determine whether someone else is starting with the same basic raw materials, you'll never know for sure -- and I rather doubt -- whether their mind fills in the details in a way similar to yours. That's going to be influenced by your own experience interpreting and networking your visual perceptions over the course of your life.

Do we see the same Man in the Moon?
I dunno; what's red look like to you?

Tangent: From the wickuhpeedia article:
In one common Western perception of the face. . . its nose is Sinus Aestuum
posted by Herodios at 9:58 AM on March 13, 2012

After being told of the crab in the moon, that's what I see when I see anything other than awesome craters and stuff.
posted by cmoj at 10:42 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Until this thread, I wasn't even aware that "The Man In The Moon" actually referred to markings on the moon that resembled a face; I just thought it was an abstract reference to some folklore of a man living on the moon. And looking at all the pictures I don't see anything that looks to me like a face. So I'm going to say that this kind of thing would vary wildly with the observer. I mean given that the moon is an object with finite number of markings and the population of the earth, I'm sure there's someone somewhere who looks at the moon and sees the same exact face that you do, but there's really no way to objectively measure that.
posted by katyggls at 11:40 AM on March 13, 2012

From southern hemisphere it looks much more like a rabbit than a man.
posted by meepmeow at 12:42 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This thread makes me feel better about never having been able to see the man on the moon. As a kid, I never understood what the hell people were talking about. The moon just looked like...the moon. With moon stuff on it.

So, I'm throwing "moon stuff" into the ring of possible interpretations. Cause, you know...it's just the moon, and some of us aren't very creative, I guess.
posted by vivid postcard at 12:49 PM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, it's much different in the Southern Hemisphere, which the Wikipedia page linked before indirectly references near the top.
posted by benbenson at 9:42 AM on March 14, 2012

If you go back in art, you find representations of the full moon that just have a standard, symmetrical face. You also find many representations based on the jagged inside edge of the crescent moon, depicting the solar terminator. I prefer these to the Picasso-like funny-shaped faces that try to work around the mares and such.
posted by dhartung at 12:11 PM on March 14, 2012

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