Moon closer to Earth, larger than normal

by CARSON CLAY

One night recently I took our dog, Annie, for a walk along the ridge. The path leads to a swinging bridge that spans Michigan’s Rogue River. Lake effect snow had accumulated but the trail was still open. The temperature and wind were cold but not bitterly so.

Photo by CLIFF HILL

Annie and I continued on toward a stump where I normally rest. Sitting down I gazed through the trees and caught a glimpse of a misty glow in the sky. Then, as if by magic, the wind pushed the clouds away and in white gold splendor a full moon was revealed. Strangely, it seemed to be larger than normal.

Thoughts came to me of the nature of this sphere that seemingly floated above.

Later I looked up orbits and phases of the moon. In all, our moon’s elliptical orbit varies in distance about 36,300 miles. Apogee is the word that describes its farthest distance from Earth and perigee stands for the nearest it will be.

I will not delve into rotational periods and tidal locking that requires a PhD to understand. Suffice to say, when I saw the full moon, it was January 19 and its elliptical orbit brought it very close to the Earth. Yes the moon did, in fact, appear larger because it was about 18,000 miles closer. The moon was in a perigee with our planet. This past weekend, on March 19 it was even closer. The moon was 252,000 miles away and on that night it was full.

Photo by CLIFF HILL

I thank God for that moment in time when I was gifted with the view of such a wonder. I sat and looked on for a while, but clouds moved in and there was only a glow in the sky. As is my habit, I moved on to the bridge and walked out to look at the rushing water. While I stood there, the haze dispersed once more and there it was in the water… the moon’s reflection.

August moons, Harvest moons and Hunters moons are truly beautiful. But in Michigan on a winter night when the clouds melt away, they pale in comparison to the magnificence of January’s Wolf moon.

 

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