Saturday, November 24, 2007

Frosty Full Moon Near Peliades


Around sunset last night, it was an almost full moon that appeared low in the eastern sky. The November full moon officially fell today at 8:30 a.m. Central Time (2:30 p.m. Universal Time). So if you’re in the U.S., last night’s moon and today's night’s moon look about equally full.

By the time full darkness falls, the Pleiades star cluster is visible to the lower left of the moon. The cluster is also called the Seven Sisters, but most people can only spot six Pleiades stars. To counter tonight’s moonlit glare, use binoculars to see the Pleiades, a very small starlit dipper.

The Pleiades star cluster follows the moon across the sky all night tonight. The moon and the Pleiades climb upward this evening, and soar almost overhead at midnight. By morning dawn on Saturday, the moon and Pleiades sit low in the west. The gap between the moon and the Pleiades closes throughout the night, as the moon moves continually in its eastward orbit around Earth. At far northern latitudes, the moon actually occults (passes in front of) the Pleiades.

Since the completed full moon comes Saturday morning, the moon you’ll see ascending at dusk this Saturday night is actually past full, though it might not look like it. It’s what astronomers call a waning gibbous moon. “Waning” means the lit portion of the moon is shrinking. “Gibbous” means that more than 50% but less than 100% of the moon’s disk is illuminated by sunshine.

Saturday night’s moon will be beaming brightly, with moonlight flooding across your sky and landscape. Despite the moonlit glare, you should be able to make out the tiny misty dipper of the Pleiades star cluster and the star Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus the Bull, both near the moon tonight.

Aldebaran, the Bull’s fiery eye, draws your attention to the V-shape group of stars that portrays the Bull’s face. This starlit V, except for Aldebaran, features a true cluster of stars, known as the Hyades. The stars of this cluster were born from a single cloud of gas and dust, and drift through space together. Aldebaran is somewhere around 65 light-years distant, while the Hyades cluster lies more than twice that far, at about 150 light-years away.

November Full Moon Names:
Colonial American name: beaver moon
Chinese: white moon
Cherokee: trading moon
Choctaw: sassafras moon
Dakotah Sioux: moon when horns are broken off
Celtic: dark moon
English Medieval: snow or frosty moon
Neo pagan: tree moon

1 comment:

Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.