Looking Up: Enjoying the bright Moon
Full moon occurs in only a few days, on Sunday, May 3.
We tend to take it for granted these days, but who among us isn’t pleased to see the Moon big and bright? We only get to see the Full Moon every 27 days, 7 hours, 43 minutes, although for a couple nights before and after it looks nearly full.
The gibbous Moon is actually very bright and a delight because of its “football” shape. “Waxing gibbous” occurs between First Quarter Moon (which occurs April 25th) and Full Moon, and “warning gibbous” after Full Moon as the portion of the lunar surface that is in sunlight as seen from Earth shrinks to Last Quarter (May 11th).
Walking in the moonlight can be lovely, if you can avoid streetlights. You won’t see as many stars, but the brighter ones still stand out and it can be surprising how many stars you will see, especially on the other side of the sky from our big satellite reflecting the sunlight on us.
Think about it. We take it in faith every evening when the Sun sets, it will be back in the morning. We can rest assured that the Sun still shines when we see the Moon, as well as the planets, as they glow in the sunshine. This is further proof that our world is round, by the way.
The orbit of the Moon is elliptical in shape; its closest approach every month is referred to as “perigee,” 221,802 miles away. The farthest point is called “apogee,” 252,622 miles from Earth. The difference in apparent size is only about three percent, which is hardly noticeable. The average distance is 238,857 miles.
When the Moon is low on the horizon it seems to be bigger than when it is up high. This is actually an illusion, caused by having the landscape by which to compare it. Actually, the Moon on the horizon is farther from you then when it is high in the sky! The reddish color and distortions seen at moonrise or moon set are caused by refraction of light in the Earth’s atmosphere.
It seems sad that calendars do not necessarily give the phase of the Moon. Of course few of us really NEED to know the Moon’s phase, unlike in the days of our forefathers who may have farmed by moonlight or used the moon as a navigational aid.
Although a well-lit parking lot is normally no place for stargazing, have you ever noticed that the view of the rising Moon over the Golden Arches, or other fast food sign? Where I live, near Honesdale, PA, the view coming down the hill on Route 6 from Honesdale, can be impressive. One of these evenings try and catch the rising Moon within the Golden Arches (be sure you have pulled over in the parking lot to do this)!
The Full Moon has long been associated with romance and has inspired a host of love songs. Hopefully with our modern ways, the Full Moon hasn’t been lost on love!
On very rare occasions (not this time), we get two Full Moons in one month; the second one is referred to as the “Blue Moon,” although the color isn’t any different.
In 1883, however, the Moon did appear blue. When the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa erupted that year, dust encircled the globe, making sunsets green and the Moon blue. It can also appear that way when there are huge forest fires. More than one old sad love song referred to a blue Moon.
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