Full Moon Glitter And Twinkling Starlinks

Two women hug goodbye after watching the full moon rise Friday night (June 5) from Brighton Beach in Duluth. Bob King

I don’t think you could have found a more perfect night to watch a moonrise. I certainly hope you got to see it, too. About a dozen people sat or stood along a stretch of Lake Superior’s rocky shore in Duluth waiting for the full moon to rise last night. These days we relish contact with our fellow humans like rarely before. Although each of stood many feet apart we shared the same emotion — the anticipation of moonrise.

Minutes after sunset but before the moon rose the dark gray band of Earth’s rising shadow lined the eastern horizon. It’s topped by a pinkish-orange glow called the Belt of Venus caused by reddened sunlight scattered back toward us by the upper atmosphere. Bob King

Sure enough, the rotating Earth once again brought us all face to face with the full moon a segment at a time until the complete orange ball had levitated above the gray horizon. Aided by the growing darkness, the moon’s glitter path on the water also became apparent. Yes, this was the Strawberry Moon but you might as well have called it the Orange Moon. Atmospheric scattering knocked out the lunar violets, blues and greens, mellowing it a fine, fire-orange.

Individual reflections of the moon on the waves create a glitter path. Bob King

Glitter paths on an absolutely calm lake yield a single reflection of the moon or sun. But when wind ruffles the water’s surface, each wavelet reflects the moon (or sun) instantaneously to create a glitter path. Individual reflected images of the sun or moon are called glints. As the wind-rippled surface moves, so do individual glints, adding shimmer and movement to the moon’s reflection. The shape and size of the glitter path is related to where you’re standing (whether on a hill say, or down by the water) and how rough the water is. Calm conditions create narrow glitter paths; windy ones spread them out.

A deep orange moon rises over the Wisconsin shoreline as seen from Duluth, Minn. on June 5. Bob King

The moon is an imperfect mirror, reflecting just 12 percent of the light it receives from the sun. But that imperfection makes moonlight special. I don’t need a second sun at night, just give me the well-worn face of the battered moon.

Starlink satellites, some bright, many fainter, make a beeline across the eastern sky last night (June 5) over Duluth, Minn. Bob King

A little more than an hour after moonrise we had an excellent high pass of Starlink-7, and it was just weird. Yes, they were bunched together in a line only 10-15° long but many were faint and constantly changed in brightness, prompting my daughter Katherine to describe them as “glitter.” Now and again one of the 60 satellites would become nearly as bright as Vega and then fade. They moved fast, too! One ardent satellite watcher believes that SpaceX’s attempts to dim the Starlinks’ brightness, such as turning the satellites knife-edge to the sun as they’re lofted to higher orbits, is showing results.

The next launch of 60 Starlinks is slated for June 13. Good news! No moon will mar the view. Stay tuned for instructions and times for watching Starlink-8.