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Astronomy 101--The Full Moon (xpost)

Jean in Wisc

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I put this together for a few of the homeschool groups in the area. Thought I'd pass it on to you as well. Hopefully your weather forecast is better than ours! :) Jean


Tonight the moon will be full--but not only will it be full, but it will be larger and brighter than most full moons!


I've put together some information about the full moon that you might not know:



  • The Algonquian Indians called the January full moon the Wolf Moon--a time when the Wolves howled longer through the night, perhaps because the food was scarce or, due to the earth being closer to the sun this time of year, the moon is brighter. Europeans called it Old moon. I, however, prefer the name of Ice Moon. It seems so appropriate in Wisconsin!




  • A full moon occurs when the sun, earth, and moon line up in a row. If the moon is directly behind the earth, we get an eclipse; but usually the moon is a little above or below so that the earth does not block the light coming from the sun. This website shows the moon's rotation around the earth and how that affects what shape the moon takes when viewed from earth: http://home.hiwaay.net/~krcool/Astro/moon/moonphase/




  • If you think about it, in order for the moon to be full, the sun must be located on one side of the earth, while the moon is on the other. As the earth spins today, we will see the sun rise in the east and set in the west; at the time that the sun is setting, we will see the moon rising in the east. ALWAYS when full, the moon is rising when the sun is setting. Tonight the moon should rise a little after 5:00 p.m. here in Wisconsin.




  • The moon is not always the same distance from earth because its path around the earth is an ellipse--when it is at its closest, it is know as being "at perigee"; when it is at its furthest, it is know as "at apogee". Two days from now (Fri., Jan. 21st), the moon will be at perigee. At this website, you can see a picture of the full moon at perigee and apogee: http://www.moonconnection.com/apogee_perigee.phtml You can see the difference, can't you!



So...the moon tonight is full, it is brighter than usual, and bigger than usual...but we are suppose to have clouds.




So how might you observe tonight's full moon?



  • I suggest you take a walk in the moonlight--even if it is cloudy, usually there is enough light to walk outside without a flashlight if you let your eyes adjust to the darkness. Beware--white light from a flash light will cause your pupils to shrink, so spend a little time in the dark letting your eyes adjust with your lights and flashlights turned off. If you have a red flashlight, take that with you if you want--red does not affect your eye's dilation as much as white light. You can make a red flashlight with red fingernail polish--adjust the amount of light that is let through the lens with a bit of polish remover.




  • Or, if you are not into a late night hike, what about making a meal of foods that are round? Apples, oranges, pancakes, pizza...



And we will hope for the clouds to open up enough for a peak at tonight's great big moon!




Edited by Jean in Wisc
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I wanted to see it, but our sky is too cloudy. Thank you for all the info, that was really interesting


If it is clear in the morning, you might be able to see it then. The next couple of nights, it will be large, as well, but it will be rising a little later each night.


Hope that works for you!


I'll post photos on my blog tomorrow.


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