Jan 30, 2010

Hungry Like A Wolf

January's full moon is also called the "Wolf Moon," according to Native American tradition associating this month's full moon with wolves howling in the cold midwinter. This full "Wolf Moon" will appear 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than any other full moon this year, because our cosmic neighbor will actually be closer to Earth than usual.

The moon will be at its closest perigee (the nearest it gets to our planet during its egg-shaped orbit) for this year at 4:04 a.m. ET Saturday, reaching a distance of 221,577 miles (356,593 kilometers) from Earth. At its farthest from Earth, the moon is said to be at apogee (the point in the orbit of a heavenly body, especially the moon or of a man-made satellite at which it is farthest from the earth.) Perigee and apogee each happen generally once a month but the moon's wobbly orbit means that the satellite's exact distance at each of those events varies over the year. The moon's phase can also be different during each apogee and perigee.

This month has the largest full moon of this year, because it coincides with the special moment when the full moon happens to occur on the same day as it is at perigee. I in a remarkable coincidence, Mars is at opposition tonight...(directly opposite to the sun in the sky)...so that as the sun sets in the southwest, Mars rises in the northeast.

Around opposition, the red planet gets closest to Earth. This year Mars swung by at just 61 million miles (98 million kilometers) on January 27, and it will still appear remarkably bright during tonight's sky show.  To the naked eye it will appear as a bright, orange-colored star right next to the full moon...the pair will jump out at you for sure.


Alina said...

Yes!!! A full moon...nothing but magic and romance. I can't seem to be able to pull away from my window xx

angie said...

It was so pretty and kind of weird. Looked like dusk out there all night long. Told hubbie those are the nights I'd love to go hiking in the woods, only it was FREEZING!!!

Thanks for your posts. I don't comment much because mostly i read your blogs as a RSS Feed on Outlook. But I'm reading. :)

Jacqueline said...

Very interesting post...I love the moon; I have a few tattoos of a crescent moon.