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Supermoons

December 29, 2017
By JOYCE COMINGORE (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

"A coming attraction to your local neighborhood sky!"

Did you miss the full moon treat the first of December? I couldn't miss it. The moon filled the sky so full, I could read by the moonlight. Visibility was superb. Well, we are in for a treat, we are in the midst of a supermoon trilogy.

A supermoon is when a full moon is the closest to Earth in its oblong orbit, called its perigee. Supermoons appear to be 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a regular full moon due to their closeness. Fortunately, we can look at the moon without harming our eyes, like when we stare at the sun (I hope you never do that). NASA is on top of this phenomenon, issuing updates, because we have two more coming up. There is no need for special instruments to see this; cameras, binoculars and small telescopes can help with enhanced views of the lunar surface. The best time to view them are at sunset or sunrise. They always appear larger, more visible then as the squashing of them makes them more visible. A moon on the horizon always looks bigger, it's called moon illusion because it makes our mind exaggerate skyline objects. This moon is visible even in well-lit areas. Because it's closer to Earth, the moon has a stronger gravitational pull, so look-out for higher rising tides than normal.

The first, December's, full moon was called the "cold moon," meaning it happens in wintertime. Native American tribes gave distinct names to the full moons because their plantings and crop rotations came about in observation of the seasons according to the moons. The foremost names came from the Algonquin tribes of New England westward to Lake Superior. Other names given this moon were "Long Night Moon," then early Christian settlers called it the "Moon before Yule."

That is now behind us. We have two more to go in the month of January, Jan. 1- 2 and Jan. 31, 2018. The official astronomical name for a supermoon is "perigee full moon" or a perigee syzygy. "Syzygy" is when celestial bodies like the sun, Earth and moon line up during a full moon. "Supermoon is not a technical astronomical name, just something catchy people recently started calling them. I searched my Farmer's Almanac, they won't use that term "supermoon" in their astronomical pages, just "perigee full moon." The moon is full at the exact time it is directly opposite the sun in its elliptical swing around the Earth. I love the terminology of "waxing" and "waning," the rising and going away of the moon. It seems that the sun's reflection will last all night long, thus an all-night illuminating observation.

The Jan. 1- 2 moon, "wolf moon," will be the year's brightest supermoon, as it will be the closest of the whole year. Although it happens worldwide in the Universal Time Zone, the exact time of day varies with their time zone. Eastern Standard Time has it arriving at 9:24 p.m., some observers claim it is coming at 7:25:29 p.m.

Now the last supermoon is a doozy. Being the second full moon of the month, it is called the "blue moon," and adding drama to the whole affair, it will stage a total eclipse. Western North America will have a total view, but we in the eastern United States only have a partial view. In staging an eclipse, the scant sunlight gives it an eerie, fainter-than-normal glow, often casting a ruddy, reddish brown hue, leading us to call it a "blood moon." So, we will have a bloody, blue moon and that's not just an English expression.

In an eclipse, the full moon lines up perfectly with the Earth and sun so that the Earth's shadow totally blocks the sun's light. Without the sun's rays casting its glow onto the moon, we have no shining moon. If, perchance, we have cloudy nights, we can still catch the supermoon online with a free webcast from the Virtual Telescope Project.

I have written about "forest bathing," now you can do moon bathing, simply sitting under the light of the "Silvery Moon." If you are with the opposite sex, it's called "spooning." Farmers can do evening plowing by the moonglow. I can remember watching my father's shadow on his tractor plowing by the light of the moon. He had a day job and the farmer in him got the plowing done at night. If you've a mind to do the same for the same reasons, take advantage of this illumination.

I found the first supermoon exciting, glowing so big and round, better than a diamond-in-the-sky.

Enjoy the illuminating experience that casts shadows from the trees. Thank the trees for their contributions to our well-being.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.

 
 
 

 

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