What? Two Full Moons This Weekend?

A bright waxing gibbous moon dons a colorful corona as passing altocumulus clouds diffract its light earlier this week. Click photo to find the time of moonrise where you live. Credit: Bob King

Lovers of moonlight, this is your weekend. The moon’s essentially full two nights in a row. Full phase doesn’t occur until 6:27 a.m. (CST) tomorrow morning or midway between the two nights. That means tonight’s moon appears in the east about 12 hours before full, while an equally filled-out moon will shine just 12 hours after full Saturday night.

Only a sharp-eyed observer would notice a half-day’s difference in the moon’s phase, so for most of us, the moon will look full both nights. What’s more, it happens to be in one of the coolest places in the sky, smack in the middle of the Hyades star cluster not far from Taurus’ brightest star Aldebaran.

Tonight’s moon will appear in the middle of the V-shaped Hyades star cluster. At a distance of 153 light years, it’s the closest star cluster to the solar system. Stellarium

The moon’s brilliance will make the star cluster difficult to see with the naked eye, but binoculars will offer up a fabulous view of our satellite ensconced in Hyades like an ornament amid twinkling holiday lights.

You can also watch the moon glide eastward and approach Aldebaran during the hours before midnight. At 11 p.m. (CST), they’ll be just 1.4° apart.

Aldebaran is more than twice as close to Earth as the Hyades; it hovers in the foreground and is unrelated to the cluster. Looking up tonight, our gaze will plumb all three dimensions of the sky in a single glance – from the relatively closeness of the moon to the middle distance of Aldebaran and further to the more distant Hyades.

2 Responses

  1. With all the attention given to Orion, Rosetta, New Horizons, Dawn, ESA’s JUICE (JUpiter ICy moon Explorer), the Van Allen probesMSL Curiosity, & MER-B Opportunity, Luna is probably having a serious case of the “blues” 😉

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