VANDALIA – The second and third brightest objects in the sky put on a fine display as the Sun lights up our closest neighbors in November.
There’s only one safe time to look at the Sun, during an eclipse, and if you’re willing to drive a little you’ll get a chance at that next year. Until then you can see plenty of reflected sunlight this month as the Moon gets closer than it has in 30 years and Venus climbs into view as well.
The Moon revolves around the Earth at an average distance of about a quarter of a million miles. The orbit however is not perfectly circular, but rather more of a slight oval shape. Since the Earth occupies a spot just off center of this oval, properly called an ellipse, the result is that sometimes the Moon is a little closer, sometimes farther. It’s about impossible to tell if the Moon is actually bigger or smaller appearing in the sky because of this, yet the internet likes to hype the close Full Moons as, “Supermoons”. This month is an occasion where the full phase will be during the closest approach, or perigee, in quite some time. On the night of the 14th when the Full Moon rises it will be about a whole Earth diameter closer than when it is at apogee, or its far point. The view is brighter by about a third, but the size is only 14% bigger. So enjoy a moonlit stroll this month, but if you’re expecting something SUPER you might be better off waiting until next year’s eclipse.
When you’re out in the moonlight before it gets too late look low in the west, you may just spot an extremely bright star. However, this is no actual star, but rather the planet Venus outshining all the true stars with only sunlight reflected off its clouds.
To find out more about these events, or anything else that’s, “Up” feel free to call Scott Oldfield, at the Vandalia Planetarium, Smith Middle School 241-6211, or visit in person. The planetarium presents a free show, open to the public the second Saturday of each month at 7:00pm. This month’s show will look back at 50 years of Star Trek.
Scott Oldfield is a science teacher in the Vandalia-Butler School District and the Director of the Smith Middle School Planetarium. Reach him at 241-6211.