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.
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?
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.