Crazy bright moon hops across the Hyades tonight

The bright moon provided plenty of light to capture both my neighbor’s snow-drifted house and a starry sky. The Big Dipper stands on its handle near center. Details: 17mm lens, f/2.8, ISO 400 and 15 seconds. Credit: Bob King

Brilliant nights! When a big moon beams over the snow-covered forest and Orion raises his club in the south I don’t care how cold it gets. By the time the sky cleared last night, the nearly full moon was already at its highest. Light bouncing off rooftop drifts and snow piled high across fields and lawns lit up the very air.

Winter nights give us the brightest gibbous and full moons because the moon occupies the same high place in the sky that the sun does in summer. Its light is direct and little sullied by atmospheric dust and water vapor. Add in snow and you can read a newspaper at midnight.

he tiptoes across the Hyades star cluster in Taurus tonight. This map shows the sky facing southeast around 8 p.m. local time. Stellarium

Tonight the moon will cross through the northern half of the Hyades (HI-uh-deez), the nearest star cluster to Earth located 153 light years away in the direction of the constellation Taurus the Bull. Skywatchers living at mid-northern latitudes won’t see any of its bright members get occulted or covered by the moon, but it’ll be cool to see our satellite nestled in the little group with a pair of binoculars.

The moon moves through the Hyades tonight as shown to correct scale and how it will appear in binoculars. Motion over 3 hours is very easy to see. Stellarium

The bright orange giant star Aldebaran sure looks like a Hyades star, but it’s a poser. Located more than twice as close to Earth at 65 light years Aldebaran’s a foreground star that just happens to neatly line up with the star cluster.  Take a look tonight in binoculars around 5-6 p.m. and then again around 9 and you’ll easily see how much the moon has traveled “across the cluster” as it orbits the Earth.

Sirius (top) and Canis Major rise over a snow-drifted garage in this photo taken last night. Credit: Bob King

I had fun before going numb last night taking photos of scenes in moonlight. It’s crazy how bright a snowy landscape is – at ISO 800 you can get away with exposure times of just a few seconds. All you need is a tripod and a point and shoot camera.

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

10 thoughts on “Crazy bright moon hops across the Hyades tonight

  1. Bob, looks like you’re getting lots of snow this year!
    Do you live in the high country outside of Duluth? A dark-sky site?

    • Richard,
      I’m just outside the city limits up over the hill. We were particularly hard hit during the big storm with about 40 inches total. The sky is dark to the north, northwest and east. South has major light pollution from Duluthy proper especially in the winter with snow reflecting streetlights.

  2. Total lunar eclipse Aug. 16, 1989. The newspaper could be read at Full Moon but became too hard to read as the darkening of the Moon progressed. We were in a tent in western Wisconsin that night.

  3. Hey Bob,

    In fear of that oncoming brilliant moon, I dragged myself outside after moonset on Sunday morning for one last look at Comet Lovejoy. It took me quite a while to spot it (I even stumbled across M-13 first) as it’s much smaller and dimmer than my last view a few weeks ago. Lovejoy was the first of the four (later 5!) morning comets that I spotted and I’ve really appreciated its steady performance in contrast to ISON’s wild ride. Two Q’s. What’s the prognosis for exploding Comet LINEAR as it approaches perihelion (March?)–any chance of its reaching binocular level again? And, any sign–by amateurs, pros, spacecraft–of ISON’s rubble pile, dust cloud, remains, or whatever? Later.

    Norman Sanker

  4. Completely clouded out during the Geminids. I took the coordinates of 8 comets, all well placed, the first 5 in different constellations. But the dimmest 3 were all in Gemini. Giclas, Hug-Bell and Oukaimedan which, the last of the 3 we may see in late August in large binoculars before it slips south of the Equator and into the twilight.

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