Friday, June 20, 2008

Just a Born Lunatic Here

I love watching the night sky. In the dark of the moon, I love seeing the stars, but full moon nights can be so glorious (I even check the phase of the moon when booking vacation and camping reservations). To the east of us across the valley, Prison Hill runs north and south for more than a mile. The various ridgeline bumps and saddles, as seen from my house, are good references for seeing the difference in where the full moon rises throughout the year. The full moon just past rose surprisingly waaaaaaay to the south. It wasn't over any part of Prison Hill at all - it was so far to the south southeast that it rose over a low spot on the distant Pine Nut Mountains.

Years ago, when I first noticed a full moon rising way over the northeast end of the Hill, my first thought was akin to Chicken Little's - "oh no, our earth's axis is wobbling, we're all gonna die!" How terra-centric of me. I've since learned that it's the moon's orbit that varies over time - kinda like a spot on the edge of a plastic plate, dropped face-down, would wobble and tilt about before finally landing flat. That wobbling, tilting effect, above and below the plane of our equator, is what the moon's orbit does over an 18+ year cycle.

Then too, there are the seasonal variations. The full moon is always completely opposite the sun in the heavens; the new moon closely follows the sun's path. Since it's now summer in the northern hemisphere, the path of the sun is high in the sky with respect to our horizon and along with it, the new moon. In contrast then, the full moon runs low this time of year (and how convenient that in the winter the full moon runs high, providing more light during the longest nights). It's rising even more to the south than usual right now (here in the U.S. anyway - did it rise at all in northern Europe or Canada?). Quick, go look.

1 comment:

Cathy said...

Hello Sadge
Its high in the sky here:)
Take care