2014-08-10 – Yesterday was the second anniversary of the current version of my EightOh9 blog.
My original blog started on January 22, 2004. But after three years, some family events distracted me and the blog was eventually lost when the hosting service went out of business. I restarted the blog two years ago on its namesake date, EightOh9 (8/09), which coincidentally is my birthday.
In honor of this auspicious occasion, the universe is treating us to a Super Moon. The exact moment of the Super Moon (1:10 PM CDT) will not be visible from the Western Hemisphere, but I am told that the Moon will retain some of its super-duperness after dusk. If you go outside then and look East, you will see it in the sky. Viewing the Moon when it is low in the sky is always nice, even when it isn’t super. That is what you will see tonight.
If you’ve ever seen the Moon before, you might wonder what is so super about it. It’s very cool, but it pretty much looks like any fool Moon.
The difference is that the Moon is a little bit closer to the Earth than at other full Moons. The Moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle, so once in a while (once or twice a year) the full moon coincides with the close point of its orbit (known as the perigee). This makes the moon seem a little larger. It is not.
To give you an idea of how this works, I want you to imagine you are in Chicago’s loop. In fact, I want you to imagine that you are exactly eight blocks away from the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. Look up (in your imagination) and note how big the building is.
Now, I want you to walk one block toward the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. You are now seven blocks away. Look up (still in your imagination) and note how big the building is. What you are now imagining is the Super Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. (You don’t have to do this in your imagination. You could actually do this.)
I want you to realize that the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower is not actually any bigger. It just seems bigger. You probably wouldn’t have noticed the difference if I hadn’t told you because our brains are calibrated to understand the difference between actual size and apparent size. This ability prevents us from becoming confused when we see the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower from different distances. Our brains are calibrated so that we know that it is the same tower in spite of apparent differences in its size.
It’s the same with the Moon. Tonight’s Super Moon is actually the same object we saw last night when it wasn’t super.
My wife Kit doesn’t like when I tell people this. She thinks I am spoiling the experience for people who have never paid attention to the Moon. They go outside to see this spectacular event (because of the hype) and here I come to say that it isn’t so spectacular after all.
But that’s not what I am saying at all. What I am saying is that it is spectacular all the time. We don’t have to wait for a Super Moon to step outside and see our celestial neighbor in the sky. We can do it every day, weather permitting.
And if you do it every day, you begin to start noticing the phases of the Moon and how the phases correlate with where the Moon is in relation to where the Sun is (even if the sun has set) and is further correlated with the time the Moon rises and sets. You will find out that sometimes the Moon rises during the day (and is even visible during the day) and that when this occurs, it is already high in the sky when the Sun sets. You will also find that sometimes the Moon doesn’t rise until late at night and that when this happens the Moon can remain visible until well after dawn.
There have been 24 full Moons since I reestablished my blog (tonight is the 25th). Folks who only come out to see Super Moons have only seen three or four in that time (look it up for the exact number).
Go outside and take a look.