Monday 14 November 2016


Heads up and head out. 14th November 2016 is a full moon. So what, we get one of those every month? But the full moon this month is much bigger than usual because the line up of sun earth and moon - that's a syzygy (from σύζυγος a yoke-together) to those who have a classical education - also coincides with the moon's perigee: its closest approach to the earth. This phenomenon is called a Super Moon and the closer the precise alignment is to perigee, the bigger the moon appears to us. The November full moon is a supersuper once-in-a-lifetime moon because it hasn't been this close since 1948 and won't be this close again until 2034. Explained by NASA. All those objects dancing to the Music of the Spheres! The gravitational influences of the three bodies makes extremely difficult any accurate prediction of where any of them will be in the future. This conundrum - The Three Body Problem - has exercised the best minds on the planet including Galileo, Newton and Henri Poincaré. I'm not ashamed to admit that in melts my feeble mind. We are not even agreed as to what a month is - I've tried to explain that much. The moon is about 30 Earth diameters from us - but its orbit is eccentric and varies between 350,000 and 400,000 km.

ANNyway, let's hope for clear skies on Monday 14th, the moon will be 14% bigger and 30% brighter so you want to get out and look East as soon as it gets dark. There is an optical illusion that the moon seems bigger when it is near the horizon than when it is Up There. If you're planning a block-party to celebrate the event, and you're Chinese, you'll probably rustle up some moon cakes. Not me, I don't like them, I'll be having a plate of pierogi [pierogi - perigee, geddit?] and inviting my Polish neighbours over.

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