Centennial Museum gecko logo

Desert Diary
Culture/Moon Figures


This page was designed with CSS, and looks best in a CSS-aware browser—which, unfortunately, yours is not. However, the document should still be readable, though not presented in the most sophisticated manner.

Next time a full moon rises over our desert, you should be able to see the man in the moon. Of course, that's sexist, so look at the woman in the moon, instead. If the woman's face isn't enough, squint just right and you'll see a woman reading a book. Not into anthropomorphic figures? OK, how about the beetle in the moon? Don't like bugs? There's always that old favorite, Saint George slaying the dragon. All of these, and many others, have been visualized by some, thanks to the dark and light patterns visible on the face of the moon.

This goes to illustrate that the human brain is built to make sense out of patterns; indeed, to do so even when there is absolutely no sense to a pattern. In our past, the ability to recognize dangerous entities from fragmentary information often meant the difference between death and survival. Today, this ability still thrives even when giving wrong interpretations. After all, none of the moon figures mentioned are correct—the authentic figure, obviously, is the rabbit in the moon!
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.