What’s even MORE amazing than three “super-moons” in the first 3 months of 2019…?!!
If you saw it last night, the almost-full super moon was already filling the sky. It’s the second of three super moon events in the first three months of the year, and will look enormous as it rises tonight at about 6pm on the eastern horizon. This illusion of a giant moon is caused when it’s somewhat elliptical orbit comes nearest to the Earth during its full moon phase.
I’m an old guy and have been on Earth for a while now. If like you, though, we all still occasionally come across some stuff that just makes us stop and say “WOW!…that was really cool!” Or…what the…??!!!
Such was the revelation my wife and I had while sitting on our west-facing patio a bit back. It was about 7:30 and the sun had gone down and we were marveling at the twilight and the cool, peaceful evening. And then…there it was…appearing on the WESTERN horizon…the moon was coming up!!! What the…???
‘last I knew, the Earth turns the same way EVERY day, and the sun…and the moon rise in the EAST…every time!! What’s the moon doing coming up in the WEST?! After I got over that Armageddon-thing…and watched for a while…I discovered that the moon had “just appeared” at about a 45-degree angle off the horizon, and then began to DROP to the horizon until it disappeared. I tell you…I’ve seen a lot of moons in my day, but I had never noticed this…seeming anomaly. You, too? It made me curious enough to actually do a bit of web-noodling to confirm how/why this happened, or if we really truly were at the end of days!
So here it is! We’re all pretty confident that a full moon cycles every 30 days, with a new-moon happening 15 days after the full moon. In between the full and new moon, we get “slivers of moon” that increase or decrease as the month progresses. The Sun always illuminates one half of the Moon, but from different positions as it orbits around Earth — it’s the fraction of the moon from which we see reflected sunlight that determines the lunar phase. As shown in the diagram below, its “New” when the moon is between the Sun and the Earth, and the sun only reflects off the far side of the moon. We get a “Full” moon when the Sun reflects off the near side.
So on TUES and WED this week (Feb 19/20) we’ve got a full super-moon, folks! Get out and howl! Following that for a few days (Feb 21,22,23 here in Florida at least!), we’ll see a little bitty crescent of light at the bottom…with the moon seemingly appearing low in the WESTERN sky at about 7:30pm. It occurs as a function of the later moon rise, relative to the angle of the sun. Because we kind of accept the moon and the sun and gravity as “givens” in the world and we don’t pay much attention, I bet you’ll think it’s pretty cool to see this “phenomenon”, if you go looking for it! Go check it out! Its happening NOW. And I hope that you enjoy this flashback to 6th grade science class!