This is a great night for werewolves and other lunaphiles in the northern hemisphere. That’s because it’s the night of the Long-Night Moon, when the full Moon is in view longer than any other full Moon of the year.
The full Moon lines up opposite the Sun in Earth’s sky, so it does just the opposite of what the Sun does in the daytime sky. Since the winter solstice — the shortest day of the year — was just a few days ago, the Sun is still putting in its most feeble appearances of the year. It rises late, sets early, and scoots low across the south during the short day. So the full Moon does just the opposite — it rises around sunset, climbs high across the sky during the night, and sets around sunrise.
The difference is more dramatic at more northerly latitudes. San Antonio, for example, will see about three hours and 45 minutes more moonlight than sunlight. But from Seattle, the difference is more than seven hours — eight-and-a-half hours of sunlight, followed by 15-and-a-half hours of moonlight — a long night to watch the silvery glow of the full Moon.
And as you watch the Moon, look for some bright companions around it. The brilliant planet Jupiter is high above it in early evening, flanked by the star Aldebaran, the ruddy “eye” of Taurus, the bull. And a star that looks like a near twin to Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, is closer to the right or lower right of the Moon — adding to the beauty of a winter’s night.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.