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Today – April 26, 2017 – is the first supermoon this year, but there is no Full Moon tonight. Can a New Moon be a supermoon? Yes.

Rather than a full supermoon, this is a new supermoon. It will happen again May 25 (the most “super of the year) and June 24.

As I have said before, a supermoon isn’t an astronomical term but a popular term to mark when the Moon is nearest to the Earth (perigee).

By a commonly accepted definition, to be a supermoon it has to come within 225,027 miles (362,146 km) of Earth. and that happens every few months. Besides the three Super New Moons, there will also be s Super Full Moon in December. After that, the following full moons on January 2 and 31, 2018, count as supermoons, too. Additionally, some will call the full moon on January 31, 2018 a Blue Moon.

Here is the caveat for this celestial event: Since you can’t really see a New Moon, you can’t see a  super one either. The Moon will be in the glare of the sun all day long and will rise and set with the Sun.

You will see the Moon’s impact with higher-than-usual tides since all New and Full Moons create bigger tides and perigee makes them even higher. We sometimes hear them referred to as “spring tides.”

Higher spring tides are one way to “see” the New Supermoon. – Photo: Manasquan Inlet, New Jersey (Wikimedia)

As much as we associate the Moon with night, you certainly have seen it during the daytime.

Yesterday, the Moon was in a waning gibbous phase and I saw it in the light of morning. During this phase, it rises in the east later than it did the night before and it will rise later and later each evening. That means you can catch the daytime moon over your western horizon after sunrise now.

The daytime moon is a nice reminder that or favorite natural satellite is up there much of the time. It is pretty pale against the blue sky, so not as noticeable as at night. Our Moon is there during the day half the time since it orbits the entire Earth once a month. It is difficult to see the crescent moon in the daytime because it is near the sun in the sky.

We always notice the Full Moon that stays out all night long, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise. Following Full Moons (the last one was Tuesday) the waning gibbous moon is rising later each night and setting in the west later each day after sunrise.

Our Moon is always up there and one half is always illuminated by sunlight and the nighttime half is in its own shadow, even though we don’t always see that.

I post a lot about the Moon and I’m hardly alone in being fascinated by it. You may have an astronomical interest in it, or maybe a more Romantic interest. Either way, you probably only think of the view of the Moon from Earth and not the other way.

Right now we are in the last quarter phase when we see half the moon’s day side, and half its night side. I recently discovered that the shadow line dividing day from night is called the lunar terminator.

Here’s another way to view the moon, if only theoretically. If you were on the moon now while it is in its last quarter phase, as it is today, and you were looking back at Earth, you’d see the Earth at its first quarter phase.

Perhaps some day, a lunar-living blogger will post regularly about the phases of the Earth.

 

firts-quarter-earth

As seen from the moon, the terminator on the first quarter Earth depicts sunrise, as the first quarter Earth waxes toward its full phase.

 

Tonight, shortly after sunset (4:40 ET), look for the sliver of the waxing crescent moon. From mid-northern latitudes, the illuminated points direct you to the setting sun and to Saturn. The planet is between the sunset and moon and from there it will follow the sun below the horizon before nightfall. It will do its own setting about an hour after sunset and will be very difficult to see in the glare of evening twilight.

double moon hoaxThe idea that it will look like there is a double Full Moon this week on the August 27 because Mars is passing so close to Earth that it appears the same size as the Moon in the night sky, is complete lunacy.

This is a story – usually accompanied by a photo like the one here that I really hesitated to spread around again – that has had a very healthy life on social media and even earlier via email since the turn of the century.

It really gained power in 2003 when Mars did pass within 35 million miles of Earth on Aug. 27 of that year. Yes, that was its closest approach to our planet in nearly 60,000 years. But even though Mars appeared six times bigger and 85 times brighter in the night sky than it normally does, it was nowhere near the size of the Moon. It still looked like the reddish star.

If you have time to waste and search “double moon,” you’ll get lots of results. Facebook, the main vector of misinformation these days, has over a million shares on the hoax.  There may be a nice Full Moon to see in your night sky this week, but nothing more captivating about it than the monthly wonder of seeing it up there.

February 3rd is the Full Moon for 2015.  For the Cherokee, it is the Bone Moon or “month when the stars and moon are fixed in the heavens” – even though we know that they are not fixed. On this site, I have called it by some of its other names: the Snow, Storm, Ice Moon, and the Hunger Moon.

It is a tough month of winter for most of the United States. This month’s Full Moon names were most associated with the harsh weather or depleting stores of food. It makes sense for a Hunger Moon, maybe even a Bone Moon, as the food and meat is gone and only the bones remain. When I am hiking in the woods, I sometimes come across the bones of animals that did not make it through the winter. White bones, picked clean by hungry animals, white on the snow and even more so in the light of the Full Moon.

Our Colonial ancestors called this simply the Winter Moon or the Trapper’s Moon, a name that came from eastern Algonquin Indian traditions. Though the tradition is (thankfully) not as common today, this would be the time when it was optimal for trapping beaver, fox, and mink as their fur would be at the fullest.

This is a good time to witness the phenomena of “Moon pillars.” I have never seen Moon pillars which are an optical phenomena that is most likely to occur when the moon is low to the horizon, the air is cold, and ice crystals are angled in a position in the atmosphere where there is direct light in a straight column directly above or below the moon.

A light pillar is created by the reflection of light from ice crystals with near horizontal parallel planar surfaces. The light can come from the Sun (usually at or low to the horizon) in which case the phenomenon is called a sun pillar or solar pillar. It can also appear to come from the Moon or even from terrestrial sources such as streetlights.

There are billions of micro-sized ice crystals in clouds (even in warmer weather) or in minute snow crystals, and as these column-shaped ice crystals drift earthward, they tip and tilt. There are “upper pillars” that are formed when light is reflected downward toward our eyes and “lower pillars” when light is reflected upward from the topmost crystal faces.

I have read that the best time to see them is at sunset when a storm front is approaching (there might be a veil of cirrus clouds in the west). If those crystals happen to be nearly perfectly horizontal, a narrow column is the result. If they are tilted at various angles to the horizontal, then a the pillar of light spreads into what might look more like broad feathers to the Moon’s sides.

light pillars

“Light pillars over Laramie Wyoming in winter night” by Christoph Geisler / Wikimedia Commons

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