Wallis: Supermoon

Aug 25, 2014

Fall doesn’t officially begin until the autumnal equinox on September 22nd – and on the 9th, the third Supermoon of the summer will appear in the sky. And if you haven’t seen one yet, be sure to mark your calendar.

I find the moon’s path confusing. In our view at home, the Sun marches predictably with the seasons from North to South along the Spine of Mount Mansfield. The Moon however, appears capriciously, waxing and waning and darting about.

NASA explains that the moon has an oval shaped orbit around the earth - one side of which, the perigee, is closer to the earth by 50,000 kilometers. Full moons that occur during perigee seem extra big and bright.

Supermoons appear about every 13 and-a-half months. This phenomenon doesn’t seem to have been reported so much in the past, but now that we all have cameras, it makes for good interactive media to encourage folks to send in their photos.

The moon appears largest near the horizon - and including a mountain or an object in the image enhances the shot. I’m insanely jealous of the photographers who captured the Supermoon juxtaposed against the outstretched arms of Brazil’s giant Christ the Redeemer statue.

When I tried to photograph July’s Supermoon, I hiked into a neighboring field where the grass was taller than I was, and my leashed dog was excited by the scent of every small mammal, deer and coyote that had recently passed that way. Bugs swirled around my head as the moon faded into a haze. I was reminded of a country music song that goes something like, “I want to walk you through a field of wildflowers and I’d like to check you for ticks.”

But to moon around just a little bit more - the blue moon, two full moons in a month, doesn’t get so much attention, but the blood moon does. That’s when a total lunar eclipse turns the moon a luscious reddish-orange – motivating anyone to dash outside for a peek.

In Erik Linklater’s story, the Wind on the Moon, he writes, "When there is wind on the moon, you must be very careful how you behave. Because if it is an ill wind and you behave badly, it will blow straight into your heart, and then you will behave badly for a long time to come.”

I googled ‘Wind on the Moon’ to research this quote and discovered that conspiracy theorists insist that one of the moon landing flags waved when planted. And since there’s no wind on the moon, they cite that as proof that the landing was staged. On the other hand, NASA says they’re pretty sure five of the six flags planted by the astronauts remain standing.

Obviously, the moon won’t be large enough to see that for ourselves, but we can still get out, enjoy the view and contemplate all the myths - and magic - of that bright, shining orb.