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The Clay County Advocate - Press-Flora, IL
  • Looking Up: There was a time when a full moon mattered

  • Full moon occurs Saturday. 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.

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  • Full moon occurs Saturday. 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.
    This time around the full moon will be a bit larger in appearance than usual because its closest approach to Earth just happens to coincide with full phase. This is the year’s largest full moon.
    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.
    Normal tides will be particularly high and low, but not alarmingly so. The last time perigee and full moon came together was in March 2011.
    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! At moonrise or moon set can also see the reddish color and distortions caused by refraction of light in the Earth’s atmosphere.
    It seems sad to some of us 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. Much has been lost by our swift, electrified age. It is not only the scourge of light pollution which takes away the full impact of a star studded night unless you live far away from population centers. Ever walk down a street lit by street lights, and see the bright moon in the sky? It is still nice to see, but if we don’t miss something, this is a sign of the times we live.
    In yesteryear, we expected to the road to be DARK if there was no moon, and LIT if the moon was out!
    Of course, there is no denying the advantages of street lighting, but for a special treat, try and get out on a country road sometime under the light of the moon.
    You likely have a spot where you frequently travel and enjoy the moonrise. 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!
    Page 2 of 2 - 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.
    In the evening this week, look for planet Venus shining very bright in the west; ruddy Mars high up in the south, to the left (east) of the bright star Regulus and planet Saturn in the east, to the left of the bright star Spica.
    Send your messages to news@neagle.com and please mention where your read this column.
    Keep looking up!
     

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