The Next Full Moon is the Buck Moon or the Thunder Moon

From my amazing colleague J.Fessler:

The next full Moon will be on Wednesday evening, July 1, 2015. The Moon will be “opposite” the Sun as seen from the Earth (180 degrees from the Sun in Earth-based longitude) at 10:20 pm EDT. The Moon will appear full for about 3 days centered on this time, from Tuesday evening through Friday morning.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, as the first full Moon of Summer the Algonquin tribes in what is now the Eastern USA called this full Moon the Buck Moon, as early Summer is normally when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. They also called this the Thunder Moon because of early Summer’s frequent thunderstorms.

Europeans often call the full Moon in June the Rose Moon. Some believe the name comes from the color of the full Moon when it is lowest in the sky for the year. The orbit of the Moon around the Earth is almost in the same plane as the orbit of the Earth around the Sun (only about 5 degrees off), so near the summer solstice when the Sun appears highest in the sky, the full Moon opposite the Sun is lowest in the sky. Particularly for the higher northern latitudes, a full Moon low in the sky will shine through more atmosphere than at other times of the year, which can sometimes give it a reddish or rose color (for much the same reason that the rising and setting Sun appears red). For the Washington, DC area, on July 1, 2015, the full Moon will reach its highest in the sky at 12:21 am EDT, when it will be in only 31.9 degrees above the horizon, making this the lowest full Moon of the year (by 0.2 degrees compared to the June full Moon).

In most lunar calendars the months change with the new Moon and the full Moons fall in the middle of the lunar month. This full Moon is the middle of Tammuz in the Hebrew calendar, Tir in the Persian calendar, Poshper in the Kurdish calendar, Saratan in the Afghan calendar, and the fifth month of the Chinese calendar.

In the Islamic calendar the months start with the first viewing of the waxing crescent Moon, a few days after the New Moon. This full Moon is near the middle of the holy month of Ramadan, the month in which the Quran was revealed. Fasting from dawn to dusk for the month of Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

As usual, the wearing of suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full moon.

As to other celestial events between now and the full Moon after next:

Now that we are past the summer solstice and moving through the summer months, the days will be getting gradually shorter.

For the Washington, DC area, rounded to the nearest minute, the latest sunsets of the year are at 8:37 pm EDT from Saturday, June 20, 2015 through Sunday, July 5, 2015. The length of the solar day varies with the seasons (our 24 hour clock is based on the average length of a day), so the days with the earliest sunrises occur before the Summer solstice and the days with the latest sunsets occur on and after the solstice.

On the day of the full Moon, for the Washington, DC area (times in EDT), morning twilight will begin at 4:34 am and the Sun will rise at 5:46 am.  The Sun will reach a maximum elevation of 74.2 degrees at 1:12 pm, sunset will be at 8:37 pm, and evening twilight will end at 9:44 pm.  By the time of the full Moon at the end of July, morning twilight will begin at 5:02 am, the Sun will rise at 6:08 am, the Sun will reach a maximum elevation of 69.3 degrees at 1:14 pm, sunset will be at 8:20 pm, and evening twilight will end at 9:27 pm.

There will be several meteor showers active between now and the full Moon after next, but none are expected to produce significant shows, particularly for those of us living in urban areas.  If you happen to be out in an area with dark skies and no Moon on a clear night after midnight, you just might see a meteor or two.

The Southern Delta Aquariids should be active from Tuesday, July 21, to Sunday, August 23, peaking the night of Tuesday, July 28 into the morning of Wednesday, July 29, 2015.  This shower is best seen from the southern hemisphere, usually produces faint meteors without persistent trails, rarely produces fireballs, and will peak this year when the light of the nearly full Moon will interfere with seeing any but the brightest meteors, so for those of us in the northern hemisphere near the bright lights of a city this will be a very difficult shower to see.  These meteors are probably caused by dust from the the short period comet 96P/Machholz or from the breakup of what are now the Marsden and Kracht Sungrazing comets that enter our atmosphere at 41 kilometers per second (92,000 miles per hour).

The Alpha Capricornids should be active from Saturday, July 11, to Monday, August 10, 2015.  This shower typically only produces about 10 meteors per hour, but I mention it because it has a fairly broad peak centered around Wednesday, July 29, 2015, and occasionally produces bright fireballs, which may be visible despite the nearly full Moon.  These meteors are thought to be caused by dust from the comet 169P/NEAT that enter our atmosphere at a relatively “slow” 24 kilometers per second (54,000 miles per hour).

The Perseids are usually one of the best meteor showers of the year.  The Perseids should be active from Monday, July 13, to Wednesday, August 26, peaking the night of Wednesday, August 12 into the morning of Thursday, August 13, 2015.  Since this peak is after the full Moon after next, I plan to say more about the Perseids in my next Moon Missive.

For the Washington, DC area as evening twilight ends on the night of the early July full Moon, the bright planet Venus as the evening star and the bright planet Jupiter will appear near each other about 12 degrees above the western horizon. Venus, Jupiter, and the bright star Regulus will appear near each other throughout this period, putting on a good show in the western sky. The bright planet Saturn will appear in the south about 33 degrees above the horizon. Venus as Jupiter will appear to move apart each evening, as Venus moves to pass between the Earth and the Sun, and Jupiter moves to pass on the far side of the Sun.  Venus will grow in brightness as the distance between the Earth and Venus decreases, reaching its greatest brilliancy (a good approximation for the harder to compute greatest brightness) for this apparition on Sunday, July 12, 2015. Saturn was at its brightest in May when it was opposite the Sun and closest to Earth, and will appear to shift to the west each evening.

Around the time of the early July full Moon, as morning twilight begins, the planet Mercury will appear very close to the east-northeast horizon, and will be lost in the glow of dawn over the next week or so (Mercury will pass on the far side of the Sun as seen from Earth in late July). Mars passed behind the Sun in mid-June and by late July will begin to rise just around the time morning twilight begins.

On Saturday evening, June 27, 2015, the bright reddish star Antares, the bright planet Saturn, the waxing gibbous Moon, and the bright star Spica will form a rough arc in the southern sky from left to right, respectively.

On Sunday evening, June 28, 2015, the bright planet Saturn will appear about 2 degrees to the lower right of the waxing gibbous Moon. For the Washington, DC area, the Moon and Saturn will appear at their closest as twilight ends, and will appear to drift apart slightly until they set shortly after 3:30 am on Monday morning.

On Monday night, June 29, 2015, the waxing gibbous Moon, the bright planet Saturn, and the bright reddish star Antares will appear to form a triangle in the southern sky.

The best opportunity to see Mercury this apparition will be on Tuesday morning, June 30, 2015, when Mercury will be slightly more than 1 degree above the east-northeast horizon at the time morning twilight begins. For the Washington, DC area, Mercury will rise at 4:27 am EDT and morning twilight will begin at 4:34 am. Mercury will have reached its greatest angular separation from the Sun for this apparition in the middle of the day on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 (22.5 degrees).

On Tuesday evening, June 30, 2015, the two bright planets Venus and Jupiter will appear about 1/3 of a degree apart in the western sky, with the bright star Regulus to the upper left. For the Washington, DC area, as evening twilight ends (at 9:50 pm EDT), the brighter planet Venus will appear slight below Jupiter, both 13 degrees above the horizon, slightly north of west. Venus will set at 11:01 pm and Jupiter at 11:03 pm. Over the next few weeks Venus, Jupiter, and Regulus will all appear to shift lower in the western sky, with Venus appearing to shift away from Jupiter and towards Regulus.

As mentioned above, the next full Moon will be on Wednesday evening, July 1, 2015.

Monday, July 6, 2015, at 8:59 am EDT, is Aphelion, when the Earth is at its farthest from the Sun for the year. Because of this increased distance, sunlight reaching the Earth at Aphelion is about 6.5% less intense than sunlight at perihelion (which occurs in early January). For the Northern hemisphere, sunlight in Summer is less intense while sunlight in Winter is more intense, while the opposite is true for the Southern hemisphere. This is one of the reasons the seasons in the Southern hemisphere are more extreme.

On Tuesday, July 7, 2015, at about 2:37 pm EDT (18:37 UTC with 4 minutes uncertainty), Near Earth Object (2015 HM10), between 51 and 110 meters (167 to 361 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 1.1 lunar distances, traveling at 8.46 kilometers per second (18,900 miles per hour).

On Wednesday afternoon, July 8, 2015, the waning Moon will appear half-full as it reaches its last quarter at 4:24 pm EDT.

On Sunday, morning, July 12, 2015, the thin crescent waning Moon will appear near the bright star Aldebaran.  For the Washington, DC area, the Moon will rise in the east-northeast at about 3:05 am, and Aldebaran will rise to the lower left of the Moon at 3:27 am.  The Moon will be about 17 degrees above the eastern horizon when morning twilight begins at 4:43 am, all in EDT.  The Moon and Aldebaran will appear at their closest in the mid-afternoon, when we can’t see them from the DC area.

Sunday, July 12, 2015, is when Venus will reach its greatest brilliancy (a good approximation for the harder to compute greatest brightness) for this apparition.  If you look at Venus with binoculars or a telescope, you should be able to see that it appears as a bright crescent.

On Tuesday, July 14, 2015 (Bastille Day), after a 9.5 year journey, the New Horizons spacecraft will fly by the dwarf planet Pluto.  The flyby will occur in the morning, but it will take radio waves 4 hours and 25 minutes to reach the Earth from Pluto, so we should get confirmation of a successful flyby around noon-time in EDT.  The spacecraft is designed to collect as much data as it can when it is close to Pluto, then play it back over the next 16 months, so stay tuned for an on-going string of discoveries! See http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/ for more information and the latest results.

Wednesday evening, July 15, 2015, will be the new Moon, when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and is not visible from the Earth.

The Islamic holiday Eid al-Fitr, also known as the Feast of Breaking the Fast, occurs a one to three days after the new Moon. In the Islamic calendar the months change with the sighting of the crescent Moon (or for the end of Ramadan, after 30 days of fasting if no visual sighting is possible due to weather conditions). This is generally considered the most important Islamic holiday of the year.

On Saturday, July 18, 2015, look for the thin, waxing crescent Moon below and a little to the left of the bright planet Venus, with the bright planet Jupiter to the right and the bright star Regulus above.  For the Washington, DC area, evening twilight will end at 9:40 pm, the Moon will set around 9:56 pm, Venus around 10 pm, Jupiter around 10:02 pm, and Regulus around 10:13 pm, all in EDT.

On Sunday morning, July 19, 2015, at 10:37 am EDT (14:37 UTC), Near Earth Object 436724 (2011 UW158), between 330 and 750 meters (1,100 to 2,500 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 6.4 lunar distances, traveling at 6.04 kilometers per second (13,500 miles per hour).

Sometime in the evening of Sunday, July 19 or in the morning of Monday, July 20, 2015 (July 20, 2015 at 04:57 UTC with almost 11 hours uncertainty), Near Earth Object (2013 BQ18), between 23 and 52 meters (75 to 171 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at somewhere between 3.4 and 22.2 lunar distances (most likely about 8 lunar distances), traveling at 14.09 kilometers per second (31,520 miles per hour).

On Wednesday evening, July 22, 2015, bright star Spica will appear about 7 degrees to the left of the waxing crescent Moon.  By the next evening, Thursday, July 23, 2015, Spica will appear about 7 degrees to the lower right of the Moon.

Thursday afternoon, July 23, 2015, will be when Mercury passes beyond the Sun as seen from the Earth (called Superior Conjunction).

Just after midnight on Friday morning, July 24, 2015 the Moon will appear half-full as it reaches its first quarter at 12:04 am EDT.

Saturday night, July 25, 2015, the bright planet Saturn will appear to the left of the waxing gibbous Moon, appearing to gradually drift closer until they set on Sunday morning (at 1:42 am EDT for the Washington, DC area).

Tuesday morning is the peak of the Delta Aquarid meteor shower (as mentioned above).

For the Washington, DC area, Thursday morning, July 30, 2015, is the first morning that the planet Mars is visible above the horizon just as morning twilight begins (at 5 am EDT). Over the coming weeks Mars will be more visible near the east-northeastern horizon.

The full Moon after next will be on Friday morning, July 31, 2015.

2 Years Later

No, it hasn’t been 2 years since my last post… but, it sure does feel like it. I seriously think about blogging all the time, yet time is one thing I don’t have. You know, between my job, my 3+ hour a day commute, my (almost) 1 year old, my amazing husband and friends; I simply don’t have much time left.

To get to the point, it’s been 2 years since I lost my beloved father in-law. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him.

This time last year, I was 9 months, 3 weeks, and 5 days pregnant, with a due date of May 31… coincidentally my due date was the 1 year anniversary of his passing. We were all anxious waiting for Mason’s arrival, but also anxious to be celebrating the 1 year. As a family we went to lunch and ‘cheered’ to my late father in-law, and 3 days later Mason was born.

Now, 1 year later, we are about to celebrate the birth of Mason and his first year of life. I often talk to Mason about his Grandpa and even take Mason to visit.

Shortly after Mason started walking (at 10 months old), I took Mason to see Grandpa, so he could see his Grandson walk for himself.

The moment was bittersweet, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

There have been many, many, many tears since my father in-laws passing 2 years ago; but I know he’s been with us every step of the way.

Mason visits gpa 1

Mason visits gpa 2

 

The Next Full Moon is the Beaver Moon

beaver moon

The next Full Moon will be in one week, on Thursday afternoon, November 6, 2014, appearing “opposite” the Sun (in Earth-based longitude) at 5:23 pm EST. The Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Wednesday evening through Saturday morning.

As the mid-Fall Moon or second full Moon after the Autumnal Equinox, this is the Beaver Moon. Mid-Fall is time to set beaver traps before the swamps freeze to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Beaver Full Moon came from how active the beavers are in this season as they prepare for winter. Other names are the Frost or Frosty Moon and the Snow Moon, although these names are also used for the late Fall Moon usually in December.

This is also Kartik Poornima. According to Wikipedia (the font of all knowledge, much of it accurate): “Kartika Poornima (Kartika purnima) is a Hindu, Jain and Sikh holy festival, celebrated on the Purnima (full moon) day or the fifteenth lunar day of Kartika (November–December). It is also known as Tripuri Poornima and Tripurari Poornima. It is sometimes called Deva-Diwali or Deva-Deepawali – the festival of lights of the gods.”

As usual, the wearing of suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full Moon.

As to other celestial events between now and the full Moon after next:

Now that we are in the middle of Fall, the daily periods of sunlight continue to get shorter. For the Washington, DC area, on the day of the November full Moon, morning (nautical) twilight will begin at 5:41 am and the Sun will rise at 6:41 am (times in EST, as daylight savings will have ended). The Sun will reach a maximum elevation of 35.0 degrees at 11:52 am, sunset will be at 5:02 pm, and evening twilight will end at 6:02 pm. By the time of the full Moon in December, sunrise will be at 7:12 am, the maximum altitude the Sun reaches will be 6.4 degrees lower in the sky, 28.6 degrees at 11:59 am, and sunset will be at 4:46 pm (one of the earliest sunsets of the year).

On the morning of the November full Moon, as morning twilight begins, the bright stars of the local arm of the Milky Way, our home galaxy, will be visible in the southwest. The bright planet Jupiter will high in the sky near the bright star Regulus, and will appear to shift higher in the sky and more towards the west each evening, almost in lock step with Regulus (Jupiter will actually appear to stop its motion relative to the stars on December 9th and begin its retrograde motion). Mercury reached its greatest angular separation from the Sun on November 1, 2014 and will be sinking from view by mid-November, passing on the far side of the Sun as seen from the Earth a few days after the full Moon in December. By the time of the full Moon in December, Saturn will begin to appear low in the east-southeast in the pre-dawn sky, having passed on the far side of the Sun as seen from the Earth on Tuesday, November 18, 2014.

On the evening of the November full Moon, as evening twilight ends, the three bright stars of the summer triangle are nearly directly overhead. Deneb in the constellation Cygnus (the swan) is the closest to directly overhead, with Vega, the brightest, in the constellation Lyra (the lyre), a little west and Altair in the constellation Aquila (the eagle) to the southwest of Deneb. The red planet Mars will appear in the southwest about 20 degrees above the horizon. Venus is lost in the glow of the Sun during this period, having passed on the far side of the Sun as seen from the Earth on October 25, 2014. Venus does not begin to emerge in the west-southwest as the evening star until later in December.

In past Moon missives, I have listed the Near Earth Objects (NEOs) that are predicted to pass within 20 lunar distances of the Earth, but we are getting so good at finding these that I am scaling back to listing NEOs expected to pass within ten lunar distances. At the time I am preparing this Moon note, only one NEO is projected to pass this close, but I expect we will find more. Since the world-wide observing network is constantly finding new objects and providing improved predictions, you can go to the web site at http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/ to find out the latest on these close approaches.

On Thursday evening, October 30, 2014, the waxing Moon will appear half full as it reaches
first quarter at 10:48 pm EDT (reminding me that it is time to send out another Moon missive).

Friday, October 31, 2014, is Halloween. According to Wikipedia, the word dates back to about 1745 and comes from the Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve, and All Hallows’ is a term that dates back to Old English. In our modern calendar, we consider the seasons as starting with the equinoxes and the solstices. The ancient Celtic calendar considered the change in seasons occurring at the halfway points between the solstices and the equinoxes. Many scholars think our Halloween customs trace back to the ancient Celtic celebrations for the start of winter under this Celtic calendar.

The latest sunrise of the year will be on Saturday, November 1, 2014, with the Sun rising at 7:35 am EDT for the Washington, DC area. For much of the U.S. at least, since 2007 when Congress changed the end of Daylight Savings from the last weekend in October to the first weekend in November, the latest sunrise of the year occurs just before the end of Daylight Savings Time. For the Washington, DC area, without daylight savings time, the latest sunrises would be in late December and early January (at 7:27 am EST rounded to the nearest minute). Because of daylight savings time, sunrise will be later than 7:27 am EDT from Saturday morning, October 25 through Saturday morning November 1, 2014. If it seems unusually difficult to wake up during the workweek of October 27 to 31, these unusually dark mornings provide a plausible (and perhaps even valid) excuse.

On Saturday morning, November 1, 2014, the Planet Mercury will reach its greatest angular separation from the Sun in the morning sky. Try looking near the horizon, just a little south of east, just as morning twilight begins (for the Washington, DC area, try looking at about 6:36 am EDT, 6.5 degrees above the horizon, halfway between east and east-southeast). Below and a little to the right of Mercury is the bright star Spica (about 2 degrees above the horizon).

On Sunday morning, November 2, 2014, don’t forget to “Fall Back” one hour as Daylight Savings Time ends. At 2:00 am Daylight Time the clock officially turns back to 1:00 am Standard Time. For the Washington, DC area, sunrise on Sunday will be at 6:36 am EST and sunset will be at 5:06 pm EST.

For several mornings around Tuesday, November 4, 2014 (when they will appear at their closest), the planet Mercury will appear near the bright star Spica. To see them, you will need a clear view of the horizon a little to the east of east-southeast. Try looking just as morning twilight begins (around 5:39 am EST for the Washington, DC area, when Mercury will appear about 6 degrees above the horizon and Spica will appear to the right of Mercury.

As mentioned above, the next full Moon will be on Thursday evening, November 6, 2014.

On Thursday, November 8, 2014, sometime between 3:00 and 4:20 pm EST (20:41 UTC with 40 minutes uncertainty), Near Earth Object (2014 UX57), between 15 and 35 meters (49 to 115 feet) in diameter, will pass the Earth at about 3.6 lunar distances, traveling at 8.38 kilometers per second (18,750 miles per hour).

On Saturday evening, November 8, 2014, the bright star Aldebaran will appear to the right of the nearly full Moon. For the Washington, DC area, Aldebaran will rise at about 6:33 pm EST and the Moon will rise 7 minutes later at about 6:40 pm EST. They will appear about 3 degrees apart when they rise but by the time they reach their highest in the sky (Sunday morning at about 1:56 pm EST) they will appear about 6 degrees apart, and will continue to appear to separate until Aldebaran is lost in the glow of morning twilight.

The Taurid meteor shower is a broad streams of dust, causing a general increase in the number of shooting stars from late September to early December. In general, the best time to look for meteors is between midnight and dawn (for the same reasons that more raindrops hit the front of a speeding car than the back, towards dawn is the way the Earth is headed in our orbit around the Sun). The Taurids are associated with the comet Encke, and along with Encke are thought to be remnants of a larger comet that has been breaking up over the last 20,000 to 30,000 years. The stream has two peaks (possibly caused by the gradual disintegration of other pieces of the original comet). The Southern Taurids peaked on the morning of October 9th. The Northern Taurids will peak between late Wednesday, November 12, 2014 and dawn on Thursday, November 13, 2014, expected to average about 7 to 10 meteors per hour. Unfortunately, this is not a good year to go out and look for the peak, as the waning gibbous Moon will be in the sky and its light will make it harder to see these meteors. The name Taurid means they appear to radiate out from the constellation Taurus. If you do try to look for these meteors, it is best to be far away from city lights with a clear view of the sky, and the best place to look is a bit away from Taurus (as a meteor headed straight towards you will not produce a long streak, making it harder to see).

Late Thursday evening into Friday morning, November 13 to 14, 2014, the bright planet Jupiter will appear to the left of the waning gibbous (but nearly half full) Moon. For the Washington, DC area, the Moon will rise Friday evening at around 11:09 pm EST, with Jupiter rising about 10 minutes later, appearing about 9 degrees to the left of the Moon. When Morning twilight begins at around 5:49 am EST, Jupiter will appear about 5 degrees to the upper left of the Moon and the Moon will be near its highest in the sky.

On Friday, November 14, 2014, the Moon will appear half full as it reaches its last quarter at 10:16 am EST.

On Saturday morning, November 15, 2014, the bright star Regulus will appear to the left of the waning crescent Moon (still appearing nearly half full). For the Washington, DC area, Regulus will rise late Thursday night a few minutes before midnight, and the Moon will rise on Friday morning at about 12:04 am EST. When they rise, they will appear about 5 degrees apart. By the time morning twilight begins, at about 5:50 am EST Saturday morning, Regulus will appear about 6 degrees above the Moon.

The Leonid meteor shower will be active from November 5th through November 30th, and will peak late in the evening on Monday, November 17 through the early morning of Tuesday, November 18, 2014. The best time to look will be after midnight Tuesday morning but before the waning crescent Moon rises (at 2:52 am EST for the Washington, DC area). If you are far away from city lights, with a clear view of a sky with no clouds or haze, and you give your eyes time to adapt to the dark, you may be able to see about 15 meteors per hour. These meteors are dust from the comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle and hit the Earth’s atmosphere at about 71 kilometers per second (160,000 miles per hour).

On Wednesday morning, November 19, 2014, the bright star Spica will appear near the waning crescent Moon. For the Washington, DC area, the Moon will rise in the east-southeast around 3:50 am EST, with Spica rising about about 4 degrees below the Moon at 4:14 am EST. They will continue to appear higher in the sky and closer together until they are lost in the glow of morning twilight at around 5:54 am EST (and would actually appear at their closest in the mid-morning when we cannot see them).

On Friday morning, November 21, 2014, the thin waning crescent Moon will appear near the planet Mercury. For the Washington, DC area, the Moon will rise around 5:51 am EST, morning twilight will begin around 5:56 am EST, Mercury will rise around 6:08 am EST, and the Sun will rise at around 6:57 am EST. To see them, you will need a very clear view of the horizon in the east-southeast (and closer to sunrise binoculars might help, but PLEASE do not use binoculars to scan the horizon near or after the time of sunrise – PERMANENT eye damage can result from looking directly at the Sun, and using any sort of magnifying device to focus even more sunlight into your eyes would damage you even more quickly and make the damage substantially worse)!

Saturday, November 22, 2014, at 7:32 am EST is the New Moon.

On the evening of Tuesday, November 25, 2014, and again the next evening, Wednesday, November 26, 2014, the waxing crescent Moon and the planet Mars will appear about 10 degrees apart in the southwest. Try looking about 20 degrees above the horizon as evening twilight ends (around 5:50 pm EST for the Washington, DC area).

On Saturday morning, November 29, 2014, the Moon will appear half full as it reaches its first quarter at 5:06 am EST.

On Monday, December 1, 2014, with a good backyard telescope, you may be able to use the waxing gibbous Moon to guide you to a view of the planet Uranus, which will appear close to and just below the Moon. Uranus is not visible without a telescope and was unknown to humanity before William Herschel discovered it in 1781.

For the Washington, DC area, the 12 day period from Monday, December 1, 2014 through Friday, December 12, 2014 will be he earliest sunsets (i.e., darkest evenings) of the year. Rounded to the nearest minute, sunset will be at 4:46 pm EST across these dates. A couple of years ago I wrote up a description of why the earliest sunsets occur before the winter solstice (and the latest sunrises occur after the winter solstice, ignoring Daylight Savings Time), which I can send you upon request (as this Moon missive is long enough as it is).

On Friday evening, December 5, 2014, the bright star Aldebaran will appear below the nearly full Moon. For the Washington, DC area, when evening twilight ends at around 5:49 pm EST, the Moon will appear about 13 degrees above the eastern horizon with Aldebaran appearing about 2.5 degrees below the Moon. By the time the Moon and Aldebaran appear at their highest in the sky at around 11:45 pm EST they will have moved until they appear quite close, a little more than one lunar diameter apart. After this they will appear to drift apart until morning twilight begins on Saturday morning at around 6:09 am EST, when they will appear about 3 degrees apart.

The full Moon after next will be on Saturday morning, December 6, 2014.