Will the Moon be still as bright?

O, we'll go no more a-roving

So late into the night,

Though the heart be still as loving,

And the Moon be still as bright. -Lord Byron

I am gazing at a color postcard of a beautiful oil painting, titled "Devonian Moon", created by my friend, the artist and amateur paleontologist Kristen Wyckhoff.

Kristen's painting depicts a giant, bright Moon shining through gauzelike clouds above the shoreline of a prehistoric sea. Kristen's speculative scene shows an upstate New York vista as it probably looked 380 million years ago.

Kristen's original 24" x 36" canvas imagines the Town of Gilboa, N.Y., southwest of Albany, as it looked during the impossibly remote Devonian Period of geologic time. This prehistoric scene is both alien and familiar to modern eyes, especially the appearance of a larger-than-normal full Moon.

During the construction of the Gilboa Dam and Schoharie Reservoir in the 1920s, the fossilized remains of Earth's earliest trees were uncovered; these towering trees were the ancestors of modern ferns and horsetails. The Gilboa forest grew near the shore of the vast, inland sea depicted by Kristen in "Devonian Moon".

The discovery of these world famous fossilized tree stumps and other plant parts made scientific news around the world. Today, several fossil stumps-members of the genus Eospermatopteris-may be observed at both the Gilboa Museum and at an outdoor display in front of the local post office.

Kristen was inspired to paint "Devonian Moon" when she first came across a reference about the Moon being closer to Earth during Devonian times.

"I learned that the Moon was half the distance closer to the Earth than it is today," she said. "That inspired me to paint 'Devonian Moon.'"

Kristen's depiction of our Moon, as it appeared millions of years before dinosaurs emerged on Earth, begs the question-what of our Moon in the distant future? Astronomers tell us that the Moon is slowly receding from Earth.

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