Hey, Sky Fans!
How goes! It’s a gorgeous day around here, be it a bit cold, and windy but sky skies are clear, so on we go. We all know it’s a tease, though.
Tonight’s the full Moon, the first of 2021! That brings me to the Sky Watch Mailbag!
…and yes, wiseguy, we do have a mailbag. We’ve gotten almost three emails to it in the last six years I’ve been doing this.
Why don’t use use the full Moon nicknames like other sites? — RP, Montvale, NJ.
As I’m sure you’ve seen all over the place by now, full Moons have nicknames, and this month’s is called the Wolf Moon. According to this page here at Time and Date, it’s also sometimes called by a few other nicknames, too. Over the last couple of years, I’ve grown weary of all these nicknames.
As you know, I’m all for outreach. That’s what this is all about, but these nicknames — including super, blood, superblood, etc. — have gone from good marketing to annoying marketing to click bait. I used to use them every month, but I’ve gotten tired of them; grown tired of having to answer the “It didn’t look any different!” questions when the answers people were looking for weren’t “let me tell you about the historical significance…” I’m all for outreach in all its forms except for those that inspire people to look away, disappointed.
But, I’m sure it’ll be a gorgeous full Moon, nevertheless, as they always are. Not my favorite phase, but who doesn’t love a full Moon? The pros, Scott, that’s who.
When you look tonight, it’ll be in the constellation Cancer, the crab, I think. Cancer, between you and me, is kind of a nothing constellation. It’s brightest stars are about fourth magnitude, which, thanks to light pollution, are tough lots of us to see.
If you have a pair of binoculars, though bust ’em out tonight and scan the skies a bit to the west of the Moon. Out there is the Praesepe, an open star cluster about 600 light years from us. Praesepe is a word I’ve never heard said out loud, so rather than butcher it, I usually call it by its other common name: The Beehive Cluster… which, I’ve also never heard said out loud, so maybe I’ve really boxed myself in.
These things are always gorgeous through binoculars — think of how awesome the Pleiades is — but the full Moon’ll pr0bz wash things out a bit.
The Moon’s on its way toward Leo, the lion, which is a great sign. That constellation always starts to show its face right around Groundhog’s day, so when I see it, I always think of it as a bit of a sure sign that spring’s coming, even here at the end of January. That first kinda-sorta-not-really bright star you see to the east of the Moon is Algenubi, which forms the lion’s head.
When you look at the Moon tonight, try to imagine what it’d be like being on the Moon, too. I hear the restaurant is so-so. Full Moon is when the Moon is behind Earth relative to the Sun. Its near side is fully lit.
Since the Moon is in full daylight and on Earth’s nighttime side, someone looking up from there will see Earth’s nighttime side spinning silently near the Sun; a darkened hole in the night. What do we call it when the Moon is between Earth and the Sun? That’s a new Moon. So, from the full Moon, we’d be looking at a new Earth.
These phases are always reversed. What we’d see from the Moon are the reverse of what we’d see of the Moon, and that always makes me smile, nicknames or not.
Thanks for stopping by, and clear skies, everyone!