Michelle Martin

Mooning around

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Did you catch the super blood wolf moon the other night?

We did. Teresa even stayed up late, looking out the window to check on the full moon starting at about 8:30 p.m.

At its rise, the moon fulfilled the promise of its “super” status; it was a “super moon” because it was at the point of its orbit where it comes closest to earth, and because of that, it appeared bigger and brighter than most full moons.

That made it easy to see, even through thin, high clouds as it climbed up through the sky to the point where the Earth’s shadow started to fall across the moon’s surface.

Once that happened, Teresa alternately bounced, danced and jumped to the front window every five minutes or so, reporting each time on how much of the moon was still visible. In the meantime, her dad and I watched TV, including the evening news, during which she was incensed that the moon was not the top story.

Eventually, the moon rose high enough that it was no longer visible from the front window, the news was over and the dog had to go out for the last time of the night.

I invited Teresa to join me in bundling up in coat and boots for a brief walk to the alley and back, with plenty of time to look up and make out the hazy disk that remained.

It wasn’t really blood red to our eyes, although I’ve seen photos from other places that make it appear so. The moon looks red during a total eclipse because the only sunlight that makes its way around the Earth to illuminate the moon is coming around the edges — from the places on Earth that are experiencing sunrise or sunset at that moment — and it is the red light of dawn and dusk that makes its way to the moon.

The orange-ish coppery color we saw was likely a result of dust or pollution in our atmosphere, according to various astronomy websites I consulted.

If you’re wondering why it was a wolf moon too, well, that’s just because it was January.

In biblical times, people looked to the skies and found portents in the stars and the moon, and surely seeing the moon dim and go red would have signified something, and perhaps even been frightening.

Now, with so much information at our fingertips, we know there is no reason to fear the ordered movement of the planets and their satellites. But that doesn’t stop us from looking up in wonder at the marvels of the universe.

And if you missed it, the next total lunar eclipse visible from most of North America will be the night of May 15-16, 2022. If you’re keeping track, a May full moon is a flower moon.



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