fool moon

Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Tue Dec 21 23:29:49 UTC 1999

Here's the writeup from today's NY _Times_, taken from

December 21, 1999

Brightest of Moons and Tallest of Tales

High tides, not cosmic levels of illumination, may be the most noticeable effect
tomorrow night when an unusual combination of celestial events produces one of
the largest and brightest full Moons in recent memory.

The Moon will have an extra glow, astronomers say, because it will be as close
to Earth as it has been all year -- about 222,000 miles away compared with an
average of 239,000 miles -- and thus will appear larger in the sky. In addition,
Earth, and therefore the Moon, is nearing it closest approach to the Sun (which
will occur on Jan. 3, 2000), increasing slightly the lunar illumination and
adding to its brightness.

The fact that this full Moon will coincide with the winter solstice, which
happens only once every 133 years, has raised wide interest, particularly on the
Internet, where messages over the last few weeks have suggested that tomorrow's
full Moon will be so brilliant that people driving at night in snowy areas may
not need their headlights. It is a fine story, but, like many Internet legends,
it has been embellished a bit along the way.

Although the Moon will be a little larger and brighter than usual, the increased
brightness will be evident only to observers with instruments, said Prof. Brad
Schaefer of the Yale physics department. "And its occurrence on the winter
solstice is of little astronomical importance," he said.

But while millions may be looking up and marveling at what they think is an
incredibly bright Moon, the real importance of the event may be the extreme high
tides caused by the nearby full Moon.

Serious flooding is possible if there are coastal storms. Extreme tides, both
high and low, occur about twice a year when the Moon is full or new (invisible)
and is at its perigee, or close point, in its monthly orbit around Earth.

Despite the hoopla over tomorrow's full Moon, the real lunar show comes at the
next full Moon on Jan. 20, 2000, when North America will witness a full lunar

 Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company

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