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moon

Not full, not new – just an old moon for February.

Last month we had two Full Moons, the second one being that Blue Moon that was also a Supermoon, Blood Moon and coincided with a lunar equinox. All that bonus Moon fun will have to hold you over this month because we will not have a Full Moon for February.

Of course, there will be a New Moon on February 15, but most people don’t get excited at all about that black or missing Moon.

If you are feeling a bit lunar lost this month, feel free to read about all the February Full Moons from past years. There is the Moon of Snow and IceIce Moon, or Storm Moon. The names for this month’s moons are not very cheery – Hunger, Bone and Old Moon are all alternative names.

“February” is a name that derives from the Latin februum which means cleansing or purification. The rituals undertaken for this month that the Romans did to prepare for spring occurred at this time. So, maybe the New Moon is a good signal to get to that modern ritual of spring cleaning. Cleansing your altar, ceremonial tools, sacred space, and self as part of the ritual is totally optional.

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When I really started paying attention to the Sun, stars and Moon many years ago, one of the things that confused me was why the Quarter Moons looked like Half Moons.

The Moon is at or near its last quarter phase tonight, February 6, and into tomorrow morning. (The precise time is tomorrow at 15:54.)  Take a look tonight and you will see half of the Moon. Half the moon always faces us, and half the moon is always lit by the sun, though we can’t see that. To astronomers, there are no ‘half moons.’

So why does this phase get the name Quarter Moon is we can see half of it lit?  First quarter moon means the moon is one-quarter of the way through the current orbital cycle. Tonight’s third or last quarter moon means the moon is three-quarters of the way through the cycle, as measured from one new moon to the next.

moon phases

The phases of the Moon as viewed looking southward from the Northern Hemisphere. Each phase would be rotated 180° if seen looking northward from the Southern Hemisphere. The upper part of the diagram is not to scale, as the Moon is much farther from Earth than shown here. Image: wikipedia.org

It is all about perspective. At first quarter moon, the near side of the moon (the part we see) is half-illuminated by sunlight and half in its own shadow, so we are seeing half the moon’s day side.

It may also seem curious that in the Southern Hemisphere tonight the right side is 50% lit and in my Northern Hemisphere it is the left side that is bright. Yes, when we enter the first quarter that will be reversed.

A third quarter moon always rises in the middle of the night. It will appear at its highest in the sky around dawn, and will set around midday.


To move away from the sky though, I do like the name “Half Moon.” Half Moon Bay is a town on the California coast that I visited once and the name seems kind of romantic. There is a song called “Half Moon Bay” from 1969 by a band that I followed, Mott the Hoople. The lyrics have nothing to do with the town and the Dylan-esque vocals don’t make the lyrics any happier or romantic. It was a song I liked for its Procol Harum-like organ back then – and the album’s Escher cover is still a favorite. (Listen  on YouTube)

Another more recent song with that same title is by Train.  This one is actually about the California town and more “romantic.”

This ain’t a threat but I think I better warn ya’
Gonna fall in love if you go to California
I did and this is how I know
By the beach north of San José
Met the right girl and it sounds cliché
But we decided not to take it slow

But remember, there may be a Half Moon Bay, but there are no half moons.

We get a Blue Moon when there is a second full moon in one calendar month. That happens on Wednesday, January 31. But our Moon will also pass through the Earth’s shadow to give us a total lunar eclipse. And the triple play comes with this also being the third in a series of three straight full moon supermoons.

There will be another Blue Moon in 2018, and supermoons occur every few months. Eclipses are rarer, but the three occurring all at once is rarer still. This will be the first Blue Moon total eclipse in 150 years for the Americas.

The Moon will be entirely inside the Earth’s dark umbral shadow (totality) for a bit more than an hour.

The term Blue Moon still makes me think of the song “Blue Moon.” It is an oldie, written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934. Lots of singers and groups have recorded it (Billy Eckstine and Mel Tormé had early hits) and versions by Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, The Mavericks, Dean Martin, The Supremes, Rod Stewart and even an adapted anthem version used by English Premier League football club Manchester City are out there.

But the recording that always pops into my head is the 1961 big hit for doo-wop group The Marcels.

The song pops up in one of my favorite horror-with-a-comedic-twist films, American Werewolf in London, which would be an excellent film to watch on Wednesday night.

If you are more of a listener than watcher, I suggest the film’s soundtrack which is full (no pun intended) of moon songs.

​Long ago, a girlfriend who was deeply into astrology while I was into astronomy, told me that the planets move through the sky and the 12 astrological signs, at varying speeds.

I pay a lot of attention to the Moon and learned that it changes signs once or twice a day. On the other extreme, Saturn spends about 3 years in each sign. Helen told me that the planets take on traits of the sign they are in at that time. Any astronomer will tell you that the signs (constellations) have no effect on the planets, but my girlfriend would have said that it causes a planet to act differently from its normal impact.

Helen did my natal chart (the placement of each planet at time of my birth) because she didn’t believe at all in the general horoscopes for signs that we frequently see online, in newspapers and magazines. You need to look at your very specific chart.

Ganesha

There is a New Moon tonight, January 16. An astrologer might remind me that can be transformative.  Vedic astrology puts this New Moon in the Uttara Ashadha which is symbolized by an elephant’s tusk, and connected to the Hindu elephant god, Ganesha. Ganesha is the “Remover of Obstacles.”

This New Moon is conjoined with Venus which we associate with romantic relationships and friendships and even non-romantic alliances. Combine this with a transit of Mars into Scorpio and we get the ability to transform in positive ways.

What does this mean for my life for the next few days, weeks, and months?  I don’t know.

I read that in India, the new moon is celebrated as Mauni Amavasya. It is a good time to take a vow of silence and do some silent reflection. I’ll stop here.

You might know that before calendars and clocks,  days and nights were marked by the rising and setting of the Sun and”months” were marked by the Moon phases. You could measure the time between Full Moons, or the time between New Moons. A lunar month (more scientific names are a lunation or synodic month) is the period of time between successive New Moons.

Lunar months vary slightly in length but we can be quite precise about them now. The New Moon today starts the longest lunar month of the 21st century. (That’s 2001 to 2100.)

The mean length of the lunar month lasts 29.53059 days. But the lunar month starting December 18, 2017 and ending January 17, 2018 will be more than 7 hours longer than the mean, having a duration of 29 days 19 hours 47 minutes.

This won’t change your life in any noticeable way, and you’ll probably still consider the month to be from December 1 to the 31st, but it is one of those celestial once-in-a-lifetime things.

new moon

A New Moon photo should be just black. By the modern definition, a New Moon occurs when the Moon and Sun are at the same geocentric ecliptic longitude and the part of the Moon facing us is completely in shadow. Pictured here is the traditional New Moon, actually the earliest visible waxing crescent, which signals the start of a new month in many lunar and lunisolar calendars.

Although the Gregorian calendar, a solar calendar, is in common and legal use in most countries, traditional lunar and lunisolar calendars continue to be used throughout the Old World to determine religious festivals and national holidays. Such holidays include Ramadan (Islamic calendar); the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Mongolian New Year (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Mongolian calendars); the Nepali New Year (Nepali calendar); the Mid-Autumn Festival and Chuseok (Chinese and Korean calendars); Loi Krathong (Thai calendar); Sunuwar calendar; Diwali (Hindu calendars) and Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew calendar).

Tomorrow, will be the New Moon when the portion of the moon we see from Earth is 0% illuminated by sunshine and so completely engulfed in the moon’s own shadow.

The moon has a day side and a night side, just as Earth does. Due to the angle between the sun, Earth and moon, we see different portions of its day side and night side as the moon phases progress. When it is waxing, we see more of its day side at night until it turns full.

The part of the moon that isn’t in sunlight is often called the “dark side of the moon.” There is a famous record album with that name. But because of the moon’s motion around Earth, the “night side of the moon” that we see from Earth constantly changes. That means there is a permanent far side of the moon, but there is no permanent dark side of the moon.

If you were to spend time in one place on the Moon, you would experience night for about two weeks, followed by about two weeks of daylight.

After billions of years of Earth’s strong gravitational pull, the Moon has actually slowed down so that it takes as long to rotate as it does to orbit once around Earth. It is “tidally locked” with Earth.

But “tidally locked” and the “far side of the moon” do not sound right for a song lyric, and Pink Floyd do say in that album’s final track, “Eclipse

And all that is now
And all that is gone
And all that’s to come
And everything under the sun is in tune
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon

There is no dark side in the moon really
Matter of fact it’s all dark

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There are always snakes in the woods. Be careful out there. Jersey brewed.  Too many people, not enough servers.  Good brews abound at Jersey best craft beer location. Yes, if you look at it right. A cake appropriate for a Jersey girl turned California girl.  Happy day and year! #foreveryoung She wants film. She wants to go outside. She loves light.

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