Saturday, 30 January 2010

I've always been fascinated by Astronomy. This month hosts two very interesting astronomical events; one a natural occurrence, the other prompted by man's invention of a method of marking time = the Western Calendar.
On Sunday the moon will be full. The first full moon of 2010. The full moon known as 'Wolf Moon' It will be the biggest and brightest moon of the year. When the moon reaches its closest point to us, its called perigee. And only a few times a year does perigee coincide with a full moon, giving us a moon that is 14% wider and 30% brighter than a moon we see in the summertime. Co-inciding with that, Mars is also close to the earth. The two together is a remarkable sight.

The almost-full Moon and Mars were only 7° apart in last night's clear sky. Unfortunately, I missed the early show, when the moon was lowest in the sky (and therefore looks very large) because next door's roof was in the way). In this photo, © Scottish_Pauly in Dundee, you can just see Mars as a little reddish dot on the left hand side of the photo. I'm sorry I missed it because it was such a clear, dark start to the night. It must have clouded up later as I woke to a light dusting of snow at about 5am.

There's nothing unusual in a Wolf Moon in January. But it will be followed by a moonless February which has only 28 days. Since that's less than the 29 day lunar month, there are some years where February doesn't have a single full moon. The last time this happened was in 1999, and it's expected to happen again in 2018.