Sunday, 27 January 2013

January full moon mimics path of July sun

The January 2013 full moon presents the second full moon after the December 21 solstice. There was a full moon in late December, on December 28. In North America, we often call the second full moon after the winter solstice the Wolf Moon, Hunger Moon or Snow Moon.

The January full moon falls in the wee hours tomorrow (Sunday, January 27) at 4:38 Universal Time. Although the full moon occurs at the same instant worldwide, the clock time (and possibly the date) varies by time zone. For general reference, however, we can say the moon is full all night tonight, lighting up the nighttime from dusk till dawn.

For the mainland U.S. the moon turns full this Saturday evening, January 26. The full moon occurs at 11:38 p.m. Eastern Time, 10:38 p.m. Central Time, 9:38 p.m. Mountain Time and 8:38 p.m. Pacific Time.

Day and night sides of Earth at instant of January 2013 full moon

Day and night sides of Earth at full moon (2013 January 27 at 4:38 Universal Time) Image credit: Earth and Moon Viewer

Elsewhere around the world, the full moon has different clock times. Looking at the worldwide map above, you can see that the full moon comes at midnight in South America and northeastern North America, at sunrise in Africa and at noon in eastern Asia. All these places will see a full-looking moon lighting up the sky tonight from dusk till dawn. But to see the moon at the instant of full moon, the moon has to be above your horizon on the nighttime side of the world.

Photo credit: King Chung Huang

In both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, the January sun – unlike the January full moon – rises south of due east and sets south of due west. In the Northern Hemisphere, these far-southern risings and settings of the sun give us the short days of winter. South of the equator, the same far-southern sunrises and sunsets bring long summer days. But the full moon lies opposite the sun, mirroring the sun’s place in front of the backdrop stars for six months hence.

And that’s why tonight’s moon – like the July sun – will follow a high path across the sky as seen from the northern part of the globe – and a low path as seen from the southern. This January full moon rises north of due east around sunset, climbs highest in the sky around midnight and sets north of due west around sunrise. Watch the full moon shine from sundown to sunup tonight.

- EarthSky

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