January is almost done. That's one twelfth of the year over already! Sadly, I feel like I'm still recuperating from the holidays. So perhaps it isn't surprising that I almost missed the first interesting astronomical happening of the new year: a giant, bright, full moon on Friday night.
This wasn't just any old big full moon either. This was the moon at perigee, that is, 50,000 km closer to the earth than any other full moon during the year. The reason is simple geometry: the moon doesn't describe a perfect circle around the earth. Instead, its path is that of an ellipse.
In short, that makes the moon appear 14% larger and almost 30% brighter at perigee than at its opposite extreme, apogee. And in case you might think that those technical terms rob this lunar phenomenon of its romance, Friday night's full moon is also called a "wolf moon". This term is supposedly derived from a Native American legend which said that the biggest full moon during this dark month would draw the local wolf packs out to cavort near villages and homesteads.
Life in Los Angeles is pretty well devoid of wolves, so I can't vouch for the
veracity of the legend. I can say that our home tends to revolve around one particular canine though, so I guess you could say that every full moon seen from here is a Camila Moon. Luckily, she's awfully tough to miss.