I thought you would enjoy knowing that a full moon will occur on the winter solstice, in conjunction with a lunar perigee – the point in the moon's orbit that is closest to Earth. The moon will appear about 14 percent larger than it does at apogee (the point in its elliptical orbit that is farthest from the Earth). And since the Earth is also several million miles closer to the sun at this time of the year than in the summer, sunlight striking the moon is about 7 percent brighter.
In laymen's terms, there will be a super-bright moon. Under certain weather conditions, even car headlights may be superfluous. The last time this astronomical oddity occurred (1866), the Lakota Sioux Indians took advantage of this and staged a devastating nighttime ambush on soldiers in the Wyoming Territory.
The Aish Rabbi Replies
Thank you for writing. All of this is a rare confluence of events! But after researching this issue, it appears that the full moon last week was 19 percent brighter than usual, but the average person could not detect the difference.
Daylight is some 500,000 times brighter than full moonlight. Said another way, the sun is 50 million percent brighter than the full moon. In that light, 14% does not represent a big change in brightness. You would need a sensitive light-measuring device to detect the change clearly, though people living near the ocean may notice that the tides may run slightly higher than normal.
By the way, Sky & Telescope magazine calculates three other dates in the last 133 years when the full moon was even closer and brighter. Perhaps this is another example of the power of the Internet to spread rumors and confusion.
What's interesting is that many people probably looked up at the sky and were amazed at the moon's brightness. That's because the full moon is always bright. It was just the first time they paid attention!
Life has the potential to be one thrill after another, if we understand the power of every moment of life. Instead of ignoring or taking for granted our daily environment, we should make a point of focusing on the awesomeness we encounter.
Judaism says that awareness of natural phenomenon is one primary way of understanding and appreciating God. Think about the spiritual rush of visiting the Grand Canyon or the Swiss Alps. Or when we witness a hurricane, tornado, sea storm or avalanche. Or at the birth of a child.
When we were children, everything about life was awesome and exciting. Who says growing up means becoming used to everything, and seeing it as mundane?
So… it was a great full moon, wasn't it?
For more ideas on injecting awe into your life, read “The Power of Awe.”