Friday, January 29, 2010
Wolf Moon Rising
All circumstances worked together tonight to create the biggest and most brilliant full moon I have ever seen.
First of all, the moon is in perigee right now -- that is, at the point in its elliptical orbit when it's the closest to earth. Some 31,000 miles closer, in fact, than at its furthest point. I read on Yahoo today that this makes the moon 14% wider and 30% brighter than other full moons of the year. Indeed, it really knocks your eyes out tonight.
Second, the moon is full. Only once or twice a year does perigee correspond with a full moon, and that's what's happening tonight. And this full moon, the first one of the year, has a wonderful name -- the Wolf Moon -- to match its brilliance.
Third, it's as clear as clear can be tonight. Not only is there not a cloud in the sky, there's not a jot of humidity in the air, with the temperature somewhere around zero degrees F., last time I looked. Such bitter cold has turned the air to crystal, sharpening the focus of all the lights in the sky, including the planet Mars, which was shining brightly right up there close to the moon. My camera couldn't capture it without a tripod and time exposure, but the naked eye can see it clearly, a bright reddish "star" just a little to the left of the moon.
This moon will still be big and brilliant tomorrow. Be sure to bundle up and get out to see it. In fact, there's a "full moon hike" at Moreau Lake State Park on Saturday night, if you want to join a party of moonwatchers. Sometimes I am just amazed by how dazzled I feel, each time I see a full moon. Unlike us aging human ladies, she never loses her charm. I am almost 68 years old, so I've seen lots of moons in my life, and still, each month (if I'm lucky enough to see her), I gaze, mesmerized, to watch her clear the horizon and sail across the sky.
My husband's mother, Dorothy Donnelly, wrote a poem about walking out to look at the moon. I thought of it tonight, so I'll share it with my readers.
To Three Old Ladies
Two old ladies, lured
by the velvet night, leave
the lee of their porch and go,
for a change of scene, abroad,
a block from home. They wade
through shadows past the black
to the corner, their ultima Thule,
where clear of the cliffs of leaf
and the tall waterfall elm,
they sight the sky and, in it,
in perfect view a quarter
million miles from the eye,
a face more famous than Helen's --
worth a walk in the dark, to see
that lily-stately and ancient
queen, dazzling in astral
white, throned in the heavens,
reigning over the night.
The travelers stare, unaware
that the silver light which comes
so fast from so far has fallen
onto their hair and sprinkled
their hands with spangles. They linger,
like talkative tourists in front of
the Mona Lisa, to praise her.
Eloquently, with the ardor
of competing ciceroni
extolling a masterpiece,
they show each other the moon.