For most of the modern world, the Moon is little more than a bright, pretty bauble in the night sky. In ages past, though, the Moon was an important part of everyday life. It served as a calendar marker for many cultures, helping regulate everything from planting seasons to religious festivals. So it’s not surprising that some of those cultures gave names to the brightest Moons of all — the full Moons.
To some of the tribes of North America, for example, the full Moon of mid to late autumn was known as the Frost Moon — a time to prepare for the coming cold of winter — or as the Beaver Moon — a time to collect beaver pelts for winter clothing.
In fact, the Frost Moon is on good display tonight. It has two prominent companions — the brilliant planet Jupiter, which is close to the upper left of the Moon as they climb skyward in early evening, and the fainter star Aldebaran, the “eye” of Taurus, the bull, to the right of the Moon.
This year’s Frost Moon could also be called the Little Moon. That’s because the Moon is not only full today, but it’s also at its farthest point from Earth in its slightly elongated orbit. That makes the Moon look a little smaller than average. The effect isn’t going to jump out at you, though — you’d need to keep a really close eye on the Moon to notice the difference. For most of us, the Moon won’t look any different from any other full Moon — a beautiful bauble, lighting up a “frosty” autumn night.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.