Did you see the “Wolf Moon” rise this week?
There is something magical about watching the full moon rise on the eastern horizon in January. As the sun sets and the sky begins to darken, an orange moon appears on the opposite horizon, finally casting a warm glow over the landscape.
That’s what happened on Saturday, January 7, 2023, and an army of photographers from around the world were on hand to capture it as it ascended into the sky.
Here are some of the best images of our only natural satellite as the entire disk became visible to us this month:
January’s full moon is called the “wolf moon” by other names, including the “ice moon,” “snow moon,” and “post-Christmas moon.”
On average, the Moon is about 238,855 miles from Earth, but its orbit is slightly elliptical. This means that there is a point every month when it is furthest away (apogee) and closest (perigee). ONE perigee full moon is known as a super moon.
There is no “dark side of the moon” – just an unseen far side. The moon is tidally locked to Earth, showing us only one face.
The moon’s surface is covered with craters, mountains and lava plains called jumping (ocean). Some of the largest craters – all formed by meteorite impacts – are visible to the naked eye under a full moon. They include Sea of Serenity and Sea of Tranquility (two round jump next to each other), the Tycho crater (a whitish circle at the bottom) and the Aristarchus crater (a small chalky white area on the left).
The full moon is a good time to study the lunar surface for what you can see, but there are caveats. Once it’s high in the sky, it’s incredibly bright and the glare makes it hard to see. It is therefore best observed when it rises on the eastern horizon at dusk.
It is also a good idea to observe the moon when it is low to maximize the “moon illusion.” For reasons not fully understood, the human brain interprets the moon as appearing larger when viewed on the horizon, in the context of the trees and buildings.
However, the best time to study the moon is either at first quarter or last quarter, seven days before and after the full moon respectively. That’s because shadows are cast across the surface, making the craters stand out more. Point a small telescope or 10×42 (or similar) binoculars at the line separating lunar day and night and you’ll see some amazing sights.
Another great time to study our only natural satellite is at crescent moon, a couple of nights after a new moon 14 days before and after a full moon, when a slender crescent moon sets in the west just after sunset. Look for “Earthshine” on the Moon’s dark limb—an eerie halo that’s actually sunlight reflected off Earth’s surface.
Any small telescope is perfect for looking at the moon, and light pollution makes no difference. Never tell anyone that moon gazing must be done in an area with dark skies. It’s bullshit! The moon looks the same, in terms of brightness, to everyone on the planet.
The moon’s phases and brightness may be global, but it will look “upside down” if you travel to the other side of the equator to where you live. It is because it is seen from a different perspective. When you look at the moon from the northern hemisphere, you are looking at it from above, so it appears straight up. When you look at the moon from the southern hemisphere, you are looking at it from below.
The next full moon after the “Wolf Moon” is the “Snow Moon”, which will rise on February 5, 2023.
Wishing you clear skies and big eyes.