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.


73 Thoughts to “Biggest Full Moon of the Year on Saturday”

  1. Chris

    I too hate the cold. I thought it was insane the first time in about 15degree weather, but it was awesome. You can do it.

    I think we share several things in common. We’ve just not found them yet. Your not the only one that’s seen they have somethings in common with me. However, we are living proof that some common ground can always be found. You just can’t be completely closed minded.

    Many thanks for this thread. It’s really been nice to see that we all have some common ground.

  2. Chris

    **off topic**
    MSNBC is airing a show about human traficking. It’s absolutely horrible. Women are being treated like slaves.

  3. Firedancer

    Moon-howler – THANKS so much for telling us that the moon is out! I hadn’t noticed! Wow, it’s awesome!! I’m going outside to dance right now.

    I too appreciated this thread, even though it kept me from doing my work all weekend. Every time I sat down to type, I kept clicking into here. But that’s ok, the work will get done.

    Well, I’m glad one we found one thing, Chris. I also admire very much that you became involved in the study group. If I lived there, I would have been involved, too. I think that kind of effort is very positive and important.

  4. Moon-howler

    All sorts of common ground here. I am sorry that some others don’t seem to think that finding common ground is a good starting place.

    That moon is getting high in the sky now. It is very bright and full. I wish I had seen it rise. Those horizon shots are when it looks huge. Mother Nature wanted to make us sweat for a while I suppose.

  5. GainesvilleResident

    Last night finally was a good night for viewing the almost full moon. This morning at 6 AM it was also up fairly high toward the west and still nearly full – was nice looking at it on the drive into work. Probably will look bigger as it approaches the horizon and sets this morning.

  6. GainesvilleResident

    Indeed, it is nice to talk about a subject like this where a lot of us can find common ground and discuss something a bit different than the usual topics on here which can at times be a bit depressing to see the latest news on.

  7. Censored bybvbl

    The moon still looked good around 7:30 this morning. As I took my morning walk, I could see it peeking out from the highest tree branches.

    Woo hoo…winter’s the best time for enjoying the hot tub. It’s hard to beat stargazing on a clear crisp night from the comfort of 101 degree water.

  8. Gainesville Resident

    Must be nice to have a hot tub and stargaze from there! Sounds good. The moon set at 8:36 AM this morning and will rise at 7:15 PM. This morning it was still at 97% phase.

  9. Gainesville Resident

    Tonight after moonrise at 7:15 PM the moon will still be at 95% phase – hopefully the weather will cooperate – partly cloudy sky predicted right now for this evening.

  10. Moon-howler

    Tonight should be a good light show if it clears off. I want to see it on the horizon.

  11. Moon-howler

    Censored, we will all be over the first snow storm. woo hoo expect company with wine.

  12. Firedancer

    I’m going to go to my favorite hill to watch the moon rise over the horizon, where it always looks huge…if I can tear myself away from work in time. Earlier today I enjoyed watching a large red tail hawk surveying his/her domain outside my window.

  13. Moon-howler

    Moon is very eerie looking as it comes up over the horizon. There is slight cloud cover making the moon look like a perfect setting for the Count….Dracula of course.

    This will be loud….don’t jump.

  14. Gainesville Resident

    Funny .wav file MH! Moon still looked good early this morning at 6 AM – was up high in the sky and still at 92% phase. Moon set is at 9:09 AM and moon rise is at 8:30 PM where it will be 88% phase.

    Did you know that at night in the winter the moon arcs much higher in the sky than the summer? That is because when it is full it is opposite the sun, and when it is a new moon it is very close to the sun. Just as the sun during the day is lower in the sky in the winter than in the summer, the moon does just the opposite at night when it is full. So this month and last month it has been very high in the sky at full moon in the middle of the night.

  15. Gainesville Resident

    A good program that shows a map of the earth and lets you see moon and sun info for your location is at . The free version has just a few maps, and there is a “Pro” version that you pay for that has very detailed maps. It will show you moon rise and set, phase, sun rise and set, and also where in the sky the moon and sun are for your location at the current time or any other time. It also shows the time of various cities around the world.

  16. Moon-howler

    Thanks for all the websites you have given us here. We need another astronomy thread. If you know of anything coming up, let me know.

  17. Gainesville Resident

    OK, MH, sounds good. This thread is dwindling as the moon is waning! I’m trying to think of things coming up in the near future but am kind of drawing a blank. But fear not, the next full moon isn’t far away – it is February 9! On January 24 there is a telescope observing session at C. M. Crockett Park in Faquier County – weather permitting.

    The last week hasn’t been that great for telescope viewing in the evening – too cloudy. The mornings have been crystal clear though but I don’t get up early enough for that with having to go to work. The next few nights are going to be too cold for even me to be out there with the scope – I draw the line at about 25 degrees in the evening. Also if it is windy it isn’t any good as it shakes the scope around too much. Hopefully it will get better soon – awhile back around Christmas I was out with the scope every night for more than a week as we had great weather then.

  18. Moon-howler

    yes, this thread is definitely dwindling but it was a good one! Let me know what you find out about the observing session at Crockett Park and maybe we can do a thread if there is anything of interest popping up about that time.

    I am with you on the cold. I am just a yard watcher but I have my limits!
    What do the local PWC amateur astronomers say about there being NO set-aside place to watch? This is something our county could do and have it cost no money. Maybe that is something to tie in to the next astronomy thread.

  19. Moon-howler

    Gainesville, If you want to write up something not too technical for our readers on astronomy, please consider doing it and I will post you as a guest.

  20. Gainesville Resident

    OK, sounds good – I’ll have to think about what to cover but i’d be glad to do it when i have some spare time and can get my thoughts together.

  21. Gainesville Resident

    By the way I haven’t been to the observing session at Crockett Park but it sounds good. Now that I live a little closer I’m considering going, especially once the weather gets a bit warmer. May not bother with the one on January 24…

    Actually another things as far as PWC goes – for future development it would be good if they’d go for trying to limit outdoor lighting as necessary, and insure that all lights project DOWN (where the light is needed) rather than UP. Somewhere there is a good document on this – I think someplace on the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club’s website. We have too many shopping centers projecting light needlessly into the sky rather than just down where it is needed. It would do a lot for our skies at night if future (and current) large shopping centers and other places with a lot of bright outdoor lighting followed those sorts of guidelines. Who knows, it might even save them some energy cost too.

  22. Gainesville Resident

    As to the cold, I agree with you on that. On a few nights when the weather is too windy or too cold and the moon was low enough, I could set up my telescope inside and view it through the window. The moon has to be somewhat near moonrise or moonset for that to work.

    With the weather outlook, I don’t envy those who are going to brave the elements for the innauguration, but more power to them. That’s not my idea of a fun time standing outside in the cold for many hours in near freezing temperatures. Then again I’m not one for trying to negotiate all the hurdles of getting into Washington that day either, plus I don’t have off from work that day anyway. My wife kind of was interested in going, since this is the first innauguration since she’s come to the USA. She’ll have to settle with watching it live on TV, which probably is a better view of things, anyway.

  23. Marilyn

    It is February 10, 2009 at 7:30 AM! and the moon is full due West and very bright, is this unusual??? I live in Ohio.

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