Full Frosty Moon Bumps Into Pleiades And Hyades Tonight

Tonight’s Full Frosty Moon will rise around sunset in the northeastern sky. November’s full moon is also known as the Full Beaver Moon. Credit: Bob King

Every full moon’s an occasion to get outside for a moonlit stroll. No binoculars or telescope needed. It’s surprising how much you can see by moonlight once your eyes get accustomed to its dark luster. Full moonlight, especially when the moon rides high in the sky as it does this month, makes me think of what daytime might look like on a planet orbiting a dim red dwarf star. Think how the sense of vision would have evolved in creatures on such a planet. To make the most of weak illumination, owl-like eyes could come in handy.

November’s full moon goes by two names – Full Beaver Moon and Full Frosty Moon. The first refers to the time to set beaver traps before the small waterways and swamps froze; the second to what covers the lawn after a clear night this month. Should you be fortunate enough to have clear skies this evening, you can watch the moon rise in the northeastern sky in the constellation Taurus. As always, the full moon rises around sunset directly opposite the sun. Click HERE to find the moonrise time for your city.

The full moon sits smack in the middle between the Pleiades and Hyades clusters tonight. Can you see them through the glare? Created with Stellarium

We all know how glaringly bright the moon is when you stare at it. Most stars in its vicinity are swamped by glare and invisible, but tonight, if you reach your hand up and block the brilliant disk, you might be able to make out two nearby star clusters, the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) and Hyades. First magnitude Aldebaran in the Hyades should be easy to see. While the bright orangish star looks like it belongs to the V-shaped group, it’s really in the foreground 65 light years away, 88 light years closer than the Hyades.

The Pleiades might be easier to spot, but if you’re having trouble with either, binoculars will make finding them a breeze. Well off to the moon’s upper left you’ll see the bright, twinkling star Capella in the pentagon-shaped constellation Auriga the Charioteer. Starting with Capella, can you trace the constellation’s outline?

Oblique view of the 8-mile-wide (13 km) crater Dugan J photographed by LRO. Dugan J is a simple, bowl-shaped crater. Debris from the rim has fallen downslope to fill the crater bottom. See closeup photo below. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter page (LRO) is where I go when I need to visit the moon up close. I’ve included a couple recent postings so you can relish the details. Orbiting at just 31 miles (50 km) high, LRO can distinguish features as small as two feet (0.5 meter) across. When mission control took closeups of the Apollo landing sites, the spacecraft was lowered even further to 13 miles (21 km). Need more “lunar cowbell”? Check out the zoomable gallery.

Zooming into Dugan J on the LRO site almost feels like you’re standing on the rim looking in! Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

7 Responses

  1. Edward M. Boll

    No snow here so no frosty moon till December, or I hope January. I just caught the news that Encke passes closest to Mercury tomorrow, and ISON on Tuesday. Scientits are hoping to get valuable data on these close close together fly bye’s.

  2. Edward M. Boll

    Beautiful morning. I saw the Moon, Mercury, Spica, the Big Dipper and Arcturus. I caught a glimpse of Lovejoy, but where was ISON? Using 20 power binoculars on and around Spica, the comet was a no show.

    1. astrobob

      Interesting about ISON. Were you looking in twilight? I know the coma has shrunk recently but photos I’ve seen taken this morning still show a bright head.

  3. Edward M. Boll

    I looked about 90-95 minutes before sunrise. I could not see Mercury yet. I arrived home about 10 minutes later, after spending a few minutes looking for meteors. Then I saw Mercury, brighter than I expected. I took one more glimpse of Spica, then walked into the house.

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