Full Moon

Full Moon At 4:25 PM (PST) today, the moon will be ‘full’, or 100% illuminated from our perspective. It is an awesome sight at night, although observing the moon is usually best done in a crescent phase.

It is noteworthy to consider all of the aspects that have been ascribed to the moon over the years. Of course, the full moon is romantic. It has been referenced countless times in romantic literature, has been the subject of journalistic hoaxes, was thought to drive people mad. In fact, almost none of the effects ascribed to the full moon actually occur. A 1996 study failed to find any correlation between the full moon and:

  • Homocides
  • Traffic accidents
  • Calls to police or fire stations
  • Domestic violence
  • Births
  • Suicide
  • Major disasters
  • Casino payout rates
  • Assassinations
  • Kidnappings
  • Aggression by professional hockey players
  • Violence in prisons
  • Psychiatric admissions
  • Agitated behavior by nursing home residents
  • Assaults
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Stabbings
  • Emergency room admissions
  • Behavioral outbursts of psychologically challenged rural adults
  • Lycanthropy
  • Vampirism
  • Alcoholism
  • Sleep walking
  • Epilepsy

Some of the interesting (from an Astronomy perspective) tidbits about the moon:

  • It appears significantly brighter at the full phase than it does a day or two before or after.  This is called the ‘Opposition Effect’.  The primary causes of this are ‘retroreflection’, ‘shadow-hiding’ and ‘corner-cube’ reflection‘.
  • The moon’s orbit is elliptical, which means that at certain times of the month it is closer to us than others. This does *not* correlate with the full moon (the cycles are a couple of days off).
  • The moon has a mean distance of 238,866 miles from the Earth. At perogee, or its closest approach to the Earth, the moon is 228,000 miles away. At apogee, or its furthest approach to the Earth, the moon is 252,000 miles away. That’s a difference of 24,000 miles, or more than three times the earth’s diameter (7,926 miles), and more than 10 times the moon’s diameter (2,159 miles).
  • The difference in the distance contributes to things like why the moon appears larger in some months, and why some solar eclipses are total, and some are annular.

Earth and Moon to scale
Earth and Moon to scale

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