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Friday, December 12

Cold December Moon, Bigger & Brighter, No Really it is.

Written By: Brian Neudorff

If we see some clearing, which might be tough for some of us, and you look at this month's full moon. You will see the biggest and brightest full moon of 2008.

Although a full moon happens every month, the one that rises tonight will appear about 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than the other full moons seen so far this year.

The Moon's orbit is an ellipse with one side 31,068 miles or (50,000 km) closer to Earth than the other: You can see that here in this diagram. In the language of astronomy, when the moon is at its farthest point away from the Earth it is called "apogee" and when it's at its closest point to the Earth it is called "perigee." Tonight the moon becomes full just 4 hours after reaching perigee. It will pass by 221,595 miles (356,613km) away, which is about 28,000km closer than average. that is why it will be 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than the other full moons seen so far this year.

The next time we get a full moon this close to Earth and this big and bright will not be until November 14, 2016.

The best time to look is when the Moon is near the horizon. That is when illusion mixes with reality to produce a truly stunning view. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging Moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. Tonight, why not let the "Moon illusion" amplify a full Moon that's extra-big to begin with? The swollen orb rising in the east at sunset may seem so nearby, you can almost reach out and touch it. (again if weather permits us to see it)

Tonight’s full moon is also notable for rising to its greatest height in the night sky for the entire year, lying almost overhead at midnight. This is because we are approaching the winter solstice, on December 21, and thanks to the tilt of the Earth the Moon appears at its highest, as the Sun is at its lowest.

Of course the moon is responsible for the tides with a perigee Moon we experience extra-high "perigean tides." According to NOAA, in most places, lunar gravity at perigee pulls tide waters only a few centimeters (an inch or so) higher than usual. Local geography can amplify the effect to about 15 centimeters (six inches).


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