• The Next Full Moon is the Wolf Moon

    I’m a day late with this one… apologies, everyone! I’ve been behind schedule all “break.” But note that author Gordon Johnston was (as always) on time. The delay in getting this out was all on my end. Anyways, happy holidays everyone!


    The next full moon is on Friday morning, December 28, 2012.  The Moon will pass through 180 degrees from the Sun in Earth-based longitude at about 5:21 am EST.  The Moon will appear full for about 3 days centered on this time, from Wednesday evening through Saturday evening.  As usual, suitable celestial celebrations are suggested.

    As the first full Moon after the Winter Solstice, this is the Wolf Moon. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, this name came from the packs of wolves that howled hungrily outside the Indian villages amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter.  Another name is the Ice Moon.  Some tribes called this Moon the Snow Moon but most tribes applied that name to the next Moon after this one.  European settlers sometimes called this the Old Moon or the Moon After Yule.

    It appears the world did not end with the end of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar cycle that started September 18, 1618.  This system of calendar cycles that was used by the Mayans and other Mesoamerican cultures has been reconstructed through archeological evidence, as it was out of use by the time of the Spanish conquest.  Will our descendants experience a similar fuss when the next cycle ends on March 26, 2407?

    As for other sky watching events between now and the full Moon after next:

    * At the end of December, as the sky darkens with twilight, Mars will appear faint and low on the southwest horizon while the bright planet Jupiter will appear in the east near the bright star Aldebaran.  In the morning before sunrise Saturn will appear high above the horizon in the southeast, while Venus, as the morning star, will appear low in the southeast.  As we move into January, in the evenings, Mars will shift ever lower in the west.  In the mornings Saturn will shift higher in the sky and brighten as it moves towards opposition while Venus will shift closer towards the horizon becoming more difficult to see until it is lost in the glow of twilight.  Not until spring will Venus reemerge in the north-northwest as the evening star.

    * For the Washington DC area, the International Space Station will be visible most evenings between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, then shift to being visible in the mornings for a few days around January 11, 2013.  Web sites like www.heavens-above.com will give you specific predictions for your location.

    * On Tuesday, December 25, 2012 (Christmas Day), the waxing gibbous Moon will appear within a degree or so of the bright planet Jupiter.  The Moon will appear between Jupiter and Aldebaran.  For the Washington DC area they will be at their closest just about the time twilight ends, around 6 pm EST.  By the time Jupiter sets the next morning they will have separated to about 10 degrees apart.

    * As mentioned above, the next full Moon will be on Friday, December 28, 2012.

    * Ignoring Daylight Savings Time, for the northern mid-latitudes at least, the latest sunrises of the year are after the Winter Solstice.  For NASA headquarters and the Washington DC area, rounded to the nearest minute, sunrise will be at 7:27 am EST from Sunday, December 30, 2012 through Thursday, January 10, 2013.  Because of Daylight Savings Time, sunrise on Sunday, March 9, 2013, the first day of Daylight Savings Time, will also be at 7:27 am (but in EDT, not EST).  However, the latest sunrises of 2013 will be in the Fall.  The sunrises from October 24 to November 2, 2013 will be at 7:27 am EDT or later, with the latest sunrise of 2013 at 7:37 am EDT on the day before we “fall back” from Daylight Savings to Standard Time.  If you live outside the Washington, DC area, these times and dates will vary.

    * Just around midnight between Tuesday, January 1 and Wednesday, January 2, 2013, the Earth will be at perihelion, the closest our Earth gets to the Sun in our orbit.  Perihelion is also when the Earth is moving the fastest in its orbit around the Sun, so if you run east at local midnight, you will be moving as fast as you can (at least in Sun-centered coordinates) for your location.  To view C. B. Boff¹s proclamation on this topic (dated now, as it was prepared for the new millennium), visit <http://cbboff.org/Proclamations/>.

    * Late Thursday evening, January 3, 2013, into the pre-dawn morning of Friday, January 4, 2013, will be the peak of the Quadrantids Meteor Shower. The best time to look will be after midnight.  This year, unfortunately, the glow of the waning half Moon will wash out all but the brightest meteors, so this will not be a good opportunity to view the Quadrantids.

    * The last quarter Moon will be on Friday evening, January 4, 2013.

    * On Saturday morning, January 5, 2013, the bright star Spica will appear about 5 degrees from the half Moon.

    * On Thursday morning, January 10, 2013, the waning crescent Moon and Venus will appear about 2 degrees from each other in the east-southeast. They will only be a few degrees above the horizon and difficult to see (you will need a clear view of the horizon and may need binoculars or a telescope, particularly as the sky starts to lighten).

    * The new Moon will be on Friday, January 11, 2013.

    * The first quarter Moon will be on Friday, January 18, 2013.

    * On Monday, January 21, 2013, the bright planet Jupiter and the waxing gibbous Moon will appear quite near each other.  They will be at their closest between 10:30 and 11 pm EST (adjust as appropriate for other time zones).

    * The full Moon after next will be on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

    I hope you have a fabulous winter break and joy in the new year!