You are here

Frosty Moon

November 13, 2016

The Moon will be full early tomorrow, so for the next couple of nights it rises around sunset and soars high overhead during the night. Tonight, it’s in the southeastern corner of Aries, near the border with the adjoining constellation Cetus.

The silvery lunar glow looks especially cold at this time of year, as the warmth of early autumn begins to give way to the chill of winter. In fact, the full Moon of November is known as the Frost Moon.

Thanks to the Apollo missions and other observations, we know today that the Moon is a dead ball of rock. The lighter portions of its surface are ancient highlands, while the dark features of the “Man in the Moon” are smooth plains of younger volcanic rock.

That’s hardly a romantic image for our satellite world. In ages past, though, the Moon was perhaps the most romantic figure in the sky. Almost every culture developed fanciful stories to explain its creation, appearance, and cycle of phases. In many of those stories, the Moon was a goddess.

In ancient Babylon, for example, the Moon was worshipped as the queen of heaven. In other cultures, it was even more important. In parts of Scandinavia, for example, the Moon goddess gave birth to the entire universe. The Moon played a similar role in the cosmology of the Iroquois.

It’s easy to envision the Moon’s power in these and many other cultures on long, chilly nights, when the full Moon casts its “frosty” light on the landscape — all night long.


Script by Damond Benningfield

Get Premium Audio

Listen to today's episode of StarDate on the web the same day it airs in high-quality streaming audio without any extra ads or announcements. Choose a $8 one-month pass, or listen every day for a year for just $30.