Go get mooned this weekend! (Every once in a while, we have to look up.)


Breaking away from a critique ms last night, I went to let my dog out, and the moment I opened the back door, I knew something was different. I crossed the patio, out of the shadow of the roof and into a power wash of the brightest moonlight I've experienced south of Montana. And the moon isn't even full until Saturday; right now it's waxing gibbous.

"Gare Bear!" I called. "Get out here and look at this." And I swear the moon was so bright, it changed the sound of my voice.

Gary's my go-to guy for all things astronomical. He calls in the middle of the night whenever there's a conjunction or an occultation or the space station is flying over, and he regularly checks SpaceWeather.com to make sure we don't miss any major happenings that can be seen with naked eye, spotting scope, or web cam. According to my old man, we're about to experience a perigee moon, the brightest full moon of 2009.

Here's how SpaceWeather explains it:
Johannes Kepler explained the phenomenon 400 years ago. The Moon's orbit around Earth is not a circle; it is an ellipse, with one side 50,000 km closer to Earth than the other. Astronomers call the point of closest approach "perigee," and that is where the Moon will be this weekend...

January is a snowy month in the northern hemisphere, and the combination of snow + perigee moonlight is simply amazing. When the Moon soars overhead at midnight, the white terrain springs to life with a reflected glow that banishes night, yet is not the same as day. You can read a newspaper, ride a bike, write a letter, and at the same time count the stars overhead. It is an otherworldly experience that really must be sampled first hand.

The most spectacular effect will be when the moon is close to the horizon, and the actual phenomenon blends with optical illusion. If you're in position, you'll be blown away by...well, it's just a huge honkin' moon!

Okay, how do I tie this into the writing life...let's see. Well, there's the blending of truth and illusion to create something striking and memorable. Or there's something oovy groovy about the trepidation of the spheres. Or maybe it's simply that it momentarily drags our nose away from the grindstone and up to the heavens.

I'm reminded of a favorite zen koan: "Barn's burned down. Now I can see the moon."

Comments

The full moon has to be *very* bright to be seen through Houston's huge, pink ring of light pollution. I'll be on the lookout tonight.

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