Saturday, March 19, 2011

We watch the Super Moon Rise

Remember the old song "When the Moon Comes Over The Mountain"?

Well, tonight was a "Super Moon" coming over the mountain and at about 7:45 p.m. The Shepherd said "Do you want to go over on the Ferndale Road (a spot north of our house that has unimpeded views of the horizon) and watch the moon come up?" We had seen the following article in our local newspaper so it sounded like it might be a cool thing to do. "Sure," I said.

On Saturday, 'super full' moon will be biggest in 20 years

On Saturday, March 19, a full moon of rare size and beauty will rise in the east at sunset. It's a super "perigee moon" - the biggest in almost 20 years.

"The last full moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March of 1993," says Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC. "I'd say it's worth a look."

In Whatcom County, the chances of sighting the full moon are problematic - the forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies Saturday.

Full moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the moon's orbit. It is an ellipse with one side (perigee) about 50,000 km closer to Earth than the other (apogee): diagram. Nearby perigee moons are about 14 percfent bigger and 30 percent brighter than lesser moons that occur on the apogee side of the Moon's orbit.

"The full moon of March 19th occurs less than one hour away from perigee--a near-perfect coincidence that happens only 18 years or so," Chester said.

A perigee full moon brings with it extra-high "perigean tides," but this is nothing to worry about, according to NOAA. In most places, lunar gravity at perigee pulls tide waters only a few centimeters (an inch or so) higher than usual. Local geography can amplify the effect to about 15 centimeters (six inches) - not exactly a great flood.

Indeed, contrary to some reports circulating the Internet, perigee moons do not trigger natural disasters. The "super moon" of March 1983, for instance, passed without incident. And an almost-super moon in Dec. 2008 also proved harmless.

The best time to look for this "super moon" is when the moon is near the horizon. That is when illusion mixes with reality to produce a truly stunning view. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects.

It had been partly cloudy all day long, so we weren't sure if we would be able to see anything, but we found a likely spot - and as luck would have it - after about 15 minutes of waiting and wondering... UP she came! As cool as it looked reflected in the little puddle of water beside the road, we wished we'd headded further west to Lummi Shore Drive where you could see it rise over Bellingham Bay. I'll bet that was pretty cool.

So her are my pictures of the super moon - as good as my little Panasonic could do. - and Happy first day of SPRING!!!! Coming soon? Lambs!

1 comment:

Kathy said...

We were cold and socked in with clouds so we couldn't see the moon, on rise at least.
That's not to say we all didn't feel that the moon was very close - most of us here at ST just wanted to howl for all it's worth! LOL!