"Cold-hearted orb that rules the night, Removes the colours from our sight,"
started the Moody Blues at the beginning of their album, Days of Future Passed. If
your Apple desktop background seems a little too moody blue, perhaps a beautiful
up-to-the minute image of the Moon in its current phase would help. The freeware
Moondock application aims to do just that.
Moondock is offered as a "lightweight application designed for displaying up-to-date
images of the Moon phase" in the dock or on the desktop of your OS X system,
and is intended for amateur astronomers, people who are interested in the Moon, and
people who just want something cool for their desktop.
Moondock can be downloaded from http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/ or from Versiontracker. This download
provides a disk image file from which you can drag the MoonDock application to your
applications folder. When you run Moondock, you can elect to keep it in your dock
using the usual methods.
Once you have installed Moondock, you can use its preferences to control the transparency,
size, drop shadow and floating level of the desktop moon, the appearance for Northern
or Southern hemisphere, local versus universal time and the behavior of the information
It can be hard to keep track of the Moon if you live somewhere that's frequently
cloudy; knowing the Moon phase may also seem to have little practical value. However,
if you are interested in observing or photographing a particular phase of the Moon,
such as a crescent or full Moon, then Moondock helps you build an awareness of the
Moon's phase so that you can be ready to look for a clear sky on the appropriate
day. I keep my OS X system running for days or weeks without shutting down. I can
start up Moondock and leave it running. The Moon image in the dock then shows the
current phase of the Moon all the time (same goes for the desktop image if it's not
covered). Even if you don't leave your computer on all of the time, you can easily
make Moondock a startup item. If I can see the Moon image every day, then I can predict
when there is going to be a new Moon or a full Moon. If I had to rely on seeing it
in the sky, then it might be days or weeks between sightings.
Especially with a transparent setting, the detailed desktop Moon is ethereally well
suited to the standard OS X abstract blue desktop background. From either the dock
or the desktop image, you can call up the Moondock information window. An added bonus
here is the names of major lunar features which appear when you hover over the lunar
image in the window.
The desktop Moon and the Moondock information window
While Moondock meets its
stated objectives well, it has some limitations. My main disappointment is that Moondock
provides no information about lunar eclipses, and does not simulate eclipses when
they are in progress. For example, in the picture below, I superimposed the Moondock
image given on Oct 27th, 2004, on top of a photograph I took of the actual moon on
that date. As you can see, the Moondock image shows a full moon with no indication
of the eclipse.
What Moondock said and what the Moon did during the Lunar Eclipse on October 27 2004
Lunar eclipses occur when
the Earth gets between the Sun and the Moon. The Moon gradually moves into the Earth's
shadow; we see this as a dark area growing over the full Moon. Finally when the Moon
is totally in the shadow it shows as a copper or red disk. Lunar eclipses are not
as rare as solar eclipses but still there may be just one a year or one every two
or three years. The next total one is going to be in 2007. I am interested in eclipses
and have photographed a total solar eclipse and seen several lunar eclipses. It would
be good to have dates for lunar eclipses in Moondock and better still if Moondock's
Moon image could simulate a lunar eclipse. I acknowledge that this could be a tall
order for freeware.
In addition to the up-to-the-minute Moon image, Moondock can also display the Moon's
appearance and information for dates in the past or in the future. Most users will
be unable to go back to see the Moon phase on the date they were born since the dates
allowed are restricted to the range of 2001 to 2015.
When using Moondock to place
a Moon image on your desktop, it is not a desktop background, but it is in its own
window. You can specify it to be floating above all windows, floating below all windows
or in its own ordered layer like any other window. I tend to keep it below all windows.
I was hoping to use Exposé (F11) to make all the windows fly off the display
so that I could see the moon window, but unfortunately the Moondock window also disappeared.
It would be nice to have an option to make the Moondock window ignore Exposé.
Moondock is offered as a lightweight application designed for displaying up-to-date
images of the Moon phase in the dock or on the desktop of your OS X system. It is
intended for amateur astronomers, people who are interested in the Moon, and people
who just want something cool for their desktop. The detailed desktop Moon is ethereally
well suited to the standard OS X abstract blue desktop background. Moondock has its
limitations, but it functions well, is a cool OS X add-on, and is free. Moondock
is recommended for anyone who loves to look at the Moon and for collectors of enigmatic
circular desktop objects.
- Size and transparency
controls for desktop moon
- Shows moon phase in the
dock as well as on your desktop
- Can display some lunar
- Date range restricted
from 2001 to 2015
- No eclipse data
- No option to ignore Exposé
4 out of 5 Mice