It has been a long week full of events. Look at the number of posts! Time to take it down a notch, just for a few hours. Let’s turn towards one of nature’s events rather than political events.
If you think things look brighter this weekend, it won’t be your imagination. Saturday, January 10, will be another perigee full moon. The perigee moon is 14% wider and 30% brighter than lesser moons.
What is making this happen? The moon is actually closer to the earth because its orbit is an ellipse. We are now coming up on the ‘short side.’
According to NASA:
Johannes Kepler explained the phenomenon 400 years ago. The Moon’s orbit around Earth is not a circle; it is an ellipse, with one side 50,000 km closer to Earth than the other. Astronomers call the point of closest approach “perigee,” and that is where the Moon will be this weekend.
Perigee full Moons come along once or twice a year. 2008 ended with one and now 2009 is beginning with another. It’s the best kind of déjà vu for people who love the magic of a moonlit landscape.
January is a snowy month in the northern hemisphere, and the combination of snow + perigee moonlight is simply amazing. When the Moon soars overhead at midnight, the white terrain springs to life with a reflected glow that banishes night, yet is not the same as day. You can read a newspaper, ride a bike, write a letter, and at the same time count the stars overhead. It is an otherworldly experience that really must be sampled first hand.
Above: The perigee full of Dec. 2008. “A cold wind was blowing as the Moon set over a neighbor’s farm,” says photographer Eric Ingmundson of Sparta, Wisconsin. “Next time (Jan. 10th) I plan to use a tripod.”
Another magic moment happens when the perigee Moon is near the horizon. That is when illusion mixes with reality to produce a truly stunning view. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging Moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. This weekend, why not let the “Moon illusion” amplify a full Moon that’s extra-big to begin with? The swollen orb rising in the east at sunset may seem so nearby, you catch yourself reaching out to touch it.
Click ‘story’ to hear the audio.