By Peter Becker
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Full moon arrives Saturday, July 12. This night and for a few following, our planet's faithful companion will be gleaming bright and quite round in the sky, bathing us in subtle moonlight. There is nothing quite like the full moon of summer.
At this time of year, when the moon reaches its full phase it is lowest in the sky around midnight, as seen from the northern hemisphere. It takes the place of approximately where the sun would be at noon time in the winter.
It is an amazing time of year to step out on a warm night, hear the crickets, watch the dance of the fireflies and enjoy the moon's glow on the landscape. Of course the effect is a lot better if you can see the moon without street, yard or house lights glaring in your eyes. Just try it from a shopping mall parking lot.
On the other hand, do notice the moon from the shopping mall parking lot. As necessary as it might be to shop, our busy modern world would keep us up all night shopping or working if we let it. Big box stores these days are often open all night long when there was once upon a time, roadways were practically barren after dark and people actually went to bed rather than waste the oil lamp or candle wax.
Maybe I'm going a little TOO far back. Amazingly, no matter the changes our world and society has seen from decade to decade, the moon and stars are seemingly stable and eternal. As we shop our senses are seared by the endless parade of commercialization. We sometimes search aimlessly for our car in a sea of cars as we push our cart full of stuff. Our load may be heavier than when we came and we take little comfort that at least our wallet is lighter than when we left the house.
Tired and weary, we finally aim for our house and hopefully our pillow, not thinking of what's above our heads.
It is worth your glance on the way to your car to see the moon or the bright planets or bright stars (forget about seeing fainter stars from a mall parking lot).
Binoculars will give you a wonderful view of the moon as well as the night sky in general (do this at home, not at the mall). You will be able to clearly see a dark areas and the larger craters and mountain ridges of the Moon; if the binoculars are marked with a magnification of "7X" or "10X" that means you are bringing the view of the moon seven or 10 times closer!
Look far above and a little left of the full moon for the bright star Altair; a similar distance above Altair is the brilliant star Vega. In late evening twilight look for the bright planet Saturn, in the south. Early risers may look for bright Venus low in the east during dawn.
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Keep looking up!
Looking Up: Enjoying the summer moon
By Peter Becker